In November 2004, my dad and I traveled north to see our beloved New York Giants play host to the Atlanta Falcons in East Rutherford, N.J.
I don’t remember much about that day. I don’t remember the drive, what we ate at the stadium or where we sat.
I don’t remember if it was cold, or hot for a late November day.
What I do remember, however, is the six-foot Falcons quarterback who ruined my day.
That afternoon, Mike Vick single-handedly torched the Giants’ defense and I’ll never forget it.
Completing 12 of 20 passes for 115 yards and two scores, while running for 104 yards on 15 carries, Vick let every Giants fan know what dual-threat meant in NFL-speak.
It meant watching the most frustrating live football you could ever watch, if the dual-threat wasn’t on your team. It meant hopelessness for a defense in perennial pursuit. It meant thinking you won, but actually losing.
I can still hear the angry fan next to me, shouting, “Break his legs!”
That day, I hated Mike Vick. But, boy did I wish he was on my team.
It’s 2010 now and several aspiring Mike Vick impersonators have tried and failed, fruitless in their efforts to replicate Vick’s success in the NFL.
There was Daunte Culpepper. There was Shaun King and Aaron Brooks — none of whom came close to doing what Vick did every Sunday then, seemingly with ease.
As most of those players dropped out of the league, though, Vick dropped out of football entirely, trading in his jersey for a prison jumpsuit.
In 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to federal dogfighting charges and hung up his cleats for what many thought would be the last time. Spending 21 months in prison, Vick essentially fell off the football map.
Pocket quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady shined while Vick was federally limited to just a few hours of sun a day.
The Falcons bought into the whole “pocket passer” thing and drafted Boston College’s Matt Ryan, rebuilding their team in the process.
Meanwhile, Vick lifted weights in the prison yard and just wondered how he could rebuild his life.