Ready for Some Football?

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Michael Vick didn#t waste any time getting to know Gwinnett County when he joined camp in Suwanee after the Falcons made him the No. 1 pick in the draft last year: he hit a nearby mall and then stopped at a Lexus dealership to buy a new car. After spending one year under the tutelage of die-hard Atlanta quarterback Chris Chandler, Vick takes over as the starter this year. At the tender age of 22, Vick confronts a dizzying array of challenges. He will have to learn to read veteran defenses that will be licking their collective chops for a taste of fresh meat. He will have to develop an intuitive sense of where his receivers are at all times. And he will have to learn to be a leader.

The obstacles to success may appear daunting, but the four people who best know what Vick is capable of all believe he will overcome them & yet each have their own unique views about the athlete and the year ahead. Gwinnett Magazine sat down with each of them # the man who drafted Vick, the head coach, the quarterbacks coach, and the player himself. Following are excerpts from these interviews.


The Deal Maker: Ron Hill

Vice President/Football Operations

GM: Does his early skill set or talent remind you of anyone you#ve worked with?

Hill: He#s got the toughness of guys like John Elway and Roger Staubach & that intangible quality to win. His arm strength is as good or better than Elway#s, and his athletic ability and speed is better than anyone I#ve seen. All the great ones, though, are just like Roger. I#m talking about the Montanas, the Elways, the Marinos & they all have that same ingredient inside # that toughness, that competitiveness, that leadership # all the things that go along with being a great one. They#re also fierce competitors who can lead the pack. This kid (Vick) is like that.

GM: Apart from Vick#s ability to play quarterback, how else does he help the team?

Hill: We#ve signed a lot of players this year as free agents who had other options # but they wanted to come play with Michael Vick. And these are veteran guys that have been in the league five or six years, but it#s appealing to them to have the opportunity to be on a football team with this kid, so you tell me what that#s worth. It#s worth a tremendous amount. Even our defense is excited about having him on offense.

GM: What are the two new marquee backs going to do for Vick in terms of taking some pressure off of him?

Hill: I think it#s going to give him a lot of confidence because now he won#t have to throw the ball every down. He can hand it off to Warrick (Dunn) or T.J. (Duckett), and in this league, you#ve got to run the ball to be able to throw the ball.

GM: Let#s talk about the fans, especially the people who perhaps want to be Falcons fans but who say they haven#t seen much excitement in the franchise#s history. What would you say to them?

Hill: I would say get your tickets now because I think they#re going to be hard to get in the future. There are a lot of players here who are going to be outstanding. If you#re not going to buy a ticket to come watch guys like Michael Vick, Keith Brookings, Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett, Travis Hall, Patrick Kerney & you#re not a football fan. This team is going to be exciting every Sunday.

The Top Dog: Dan Reeves

Head Coach

GM: What did drafting Vick do to fan interest in the Falcons?

Reeves: When I was in Denver (coaching the Broncos), I knew what Elway did for the franchise. He was the type of quarterback who could carry the team on his shoulders. I think Michael is exciting not just for the Falcons but for the city of Atlanta. He could be around for the next 10 to 15 years. There#s no question that he has unbelievable God-given ability & the quick arm, the quick release, the speed. He#s going to raise peoples# level of play, and that#s always going to give us