Dwight Vick, former Virginia Tech offensive lineman, used to measure his success in the amount of impacts he could make on the defense. Now, the impact he strives for is far more enduring.
On Wednesday, Dwight Vick made a return appearance to campus to speak about his journey before and after Tech in an effort to promote Remember Serve Learn, a new initiative by VT Engage.
Vick was an offensive guard from 1995 to 1999 and was a key component when Tech began its rise to prominence, helping the team to four consecutive bowl games and two consecutive Big East championships. He served as team captain and was nominated All-Big East his final year.
After graduating with degrees in Sociology and Family Child Development, Vick tested the NFL and AFL waters before turning his attention to his self-proclaimed true calling: helping young people achieve success.
“Back when I was young, all I would tell people I planned on doing was being an NFL football player. Simply put, I was egocentric,” said Vick. “It wasn’t until I spoke to a high school and got amazing feedback that I started to look beyond instant gratification, looking beyond today.
The things I’m doing now are going to have a greater impact than any touchdown or bowl game.”
Vick’s current workload would make some people shudder. Along with being a husband and father of three, he recently finished working to recieved two degrees: a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family and Master of Arts in Human Services. On his professional side, he is Director of Student Development at College Prep World, writes columns for VTSCOOP.com, works as a therapist and still finds time to do speaking engagements at schools and universities up and down the East coast.
“I look back at the times when I was living in Foxridge while attending Tech and playing video games and talking about jump shots or shoes and realize that I could have made a lot better usage of my life then,” said Vick. “There’s a sense of urgency you must have when you’re here on earth.”
Growing up around other future athletes like Allen Iverson, Aaron Brooks and his cousins Michael and Marcus (for whom he jokingly mentions that he was the lead recruiter and is waiting for his shrine/plaque to go up on campus), Vick noticed that for every successful person, there were two or three that weren’t so fortunate. He had a realization during his teenage years that would instill his internal drive for helping.
“When I was a freshman at Hampton High School in 1990, there were about 600 or so kids in my class. When I graduated, there was a little over 200 there receiving their degrees with me. Pregnancies, drugs, trouble with the law, deaths and a variety of other reasons were the cause of this attrition,” said Vick.
“I see the struggle still happening, these kids with the same talent I had getting lost. This is my motivation for getting back and changing it.”
In 2007, Vick was named Director of Student Development for the Manassas-based College Prep World, an enterprise he helped create. The company focuses on determining the best colleges for student-athletes who plan on continuing education, helps them achieve scholarships and also gives clients a few lessons on money management, interviewing skills and resume-building skills, things Vick considers imperative for youth.
As a man who has experienced success, struggle and failure himself, Vick couples that understanding with the time he spent in the classroom and on the field at Virginia Tech when working with younger people.
“The sacrifices I made are benefiting me now,” said Vick. “Sometimes when I’m working with kids who’ve ran into trouble, there could be a room with four gang members, six kids on probation and a couple of runners, and they don’t want to hear you. Just like when I had to go up against Miami, I have to go against this now. Except rather than different colored jerseys, the opponent is resistance and burnout. I use the same techniques I learned on the field and apply them to helping break through to these kids that deep down actually want you to help them.”
Vick works tirelessly to volunteer and support those around him. He dislikes the labels placed on kids, like that of being ‘at-risk,’ because he fears that this only leads to judgment, and often it doesn’t capture the full story of an individual.
“You always hear about how a lot of kids from broken homes are ‘at-risk’ because of the situation they’ve grown up in, but what about the girl that lives with her parents in a gated community that suffers from depression and cuts herself? She’s at as much risk as anyone else, and deserves to be helped as well,” said Vick.
“We can positively change the environment without succumbing to the negativity around us. All it takes is internal fortitude and motivation, and you’ll find that the reward you get later in life is truly amazing.”