Community reactions are conflicted as former Virginia Tech football standout Michael Vick makes his first return to Blacksburg since being released from prison for being a part of a dog fighting operation.
Vick, who played quarterback for two seasons from 1999-2000 after redshirting for one year, led the Hokies to the 2000 Sugar Bowl. Selected first overall in the 2001 NFL Draft, Vick played six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons before his incarceration. He served 19 months in federal prison before being released in May 2009.
Now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick’s teammates rewarded him with the team’s Ed Block Courage Award. The award, given by each of the NFL’s 32 teams, recognizes players who display sportsmanship and courage.
Vick was invited to return to Blacksburg to take part in activities surrounding the Hokies’ spring game on Saturday.
As a part of his appearance in Blacksburg, Vick will sign autographs at Tech Bookstore on South Main Street. Tickets for the event, priced at $25 if purchased before the event and $30 at the door, have drawn some interest. Of the 50 available pre-sale tickets, 28 have already been sold, including one buyer from Florida.
George Daniels, store manager of Tech Bookstore, said the store had done a similar event last year, which brought out Tech football alumni including Victor “Macho” Harris, D’Angelo Hall and Brandon Flowers.
“It was a fun atmosphere,” Daniels said.
Calls left with Brenden Hill, a representative for The Elite Group, which set up the signing event with the store, were not returned.
The store offers several Tech-themed products for dogs, including collars, jerseys and sweaters.
While Daniels said reaction was positive, he did admit to receiving two e-mails from “people disappointed we’re doing this.” Additionally, comments for an event listing on Facebook about the signing had to be taken down after negative posts were made about Vick’s criminal actions.
“I should’ve never had it open,” Daniels said, admitting he often has younger employees assist with working on the store’s page. “I’m not that great on Facebook.”