- Michael Smith, NFL Senior Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Every year the good folks in the NFL's public relations department create and distribute to the media a complimentary (and very much appreciated) collection of select articles, organized by position, on more than 300 scouting combine invitees.
The lone Marcus Vick article included is a 494-word story that appeared in the Daily Press of Vick's hometown of Newport News, Va., from Christmas Eve 2005. The piece details what has become for Vick an annual visit to a local Boys and Girls Club, where, along with his mother, Brenda Boddie, the former Virginia Tech quarterback and younger brother of Atlanta Falcons star QB Michael Vick delivers gifts to some of the city's less-fortunate children.
This particular story, and rightfully so, made no reference to Vick's many off-field transgressions during his four years at Tech.
If only it were that easy to make Vick's troubles disappear.
If only NFL teams who are interviewing Vick wanted to discuss his voluntary community service.
"It's everything I thought it would be," is how Vick described the scouting combine experience Friday. "A lot of questions being asked."
There's a lot for him to explain.
Like the one-game suspension in 2003, his redshirt freshman season, for undisclosed reasons. The arrest for allegedly allowing underage girls to have alcohol at a party and May 2004 conviction on three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The July 2004 arrest for reckless driving and marijuana possession. The suspension for the Fall '04 semester. The obscene gesture he made to West Virginia fans in October 2005. Stomping on the left calf of Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil in the Gator Bowl in January. Speeding and driving with a suspended license, an incident that led to the university, which had had him on a "zero tolerance policy," dismissing him Jan. 6 for "a cumulative effect of legal infractions and unsportsmanlike play [in the Gator Bowl]," in the words of Tech president Charles Steger.
Two days after being kicked out of school and a day after announcing he would forgo his senior season and turn pro, Vick was charged with three counts of brandishing a firearm for allegedly drawing a gun on three teenagers in a fast food restaurant's parking lot.
Yeah, Marcus Vick has a lot of explaining to do while he's here as to why he always seems to find himself in trouble. In contrast to top prospects such as Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young, who had more to lose than to gain by working out for scouts, Vick has everything to gain, or regain, rather, beginning with his reputation.
If he is to have a future in the NFL, he first has to deal with his past.
"Just trying to show them the type of person that I am," is Vick's objective. "To show the world I'm not the person that some people make me out to be."
And who would that be?
"Some kind of bad guy. Like the villain. But I'm not that kind of person. I wasn't raised that way. Anybody that really knows me knows that."
It's clear, though, that Vick, who will turn 22 next month, has made his own bed. How are teams, such as the Eagles and Packers, both of whom had spoken to Vick prior to his meeting with the media, supposed to believe he won't make the same mistakes again?
For starters, he can present himself as sincere and genuinely remorseful as he did when reporters confronted him about his issues. Tell you what: If it was a show, then the younger Vick is a better actor than he is a quarterback. He came off as exactly what people who know him well says he is: a good kid who thanks his brother, became a millionaire himself at 18 and who's made a few mistakes that have been magnified because of his last name.
Marcus Vick's story illustrates the disaster that can occur when privilege meets immaturity.
"Just poor decisions," he said. "Basically, poor decisions. That's the most important thing to me right now, just making the correct decisions when no one's watching."
In the days following Tech's Gator Bowl win, one couldn't watch sports television without seeing a replay of Dumervil catching Vick's spikes in his left calf.
Vick was very forthcoming, as, he says, he has been in his team interviews, with his explanation of both the Gator Bowl incident and the altercation in the McDonald's parking lot.
Vick denied pulling a gun that night.
"That got blown way out of proportion," he said. "I don't carry guns, I don't affiliate with people that have guns. They are very dangerous. They can go off at any time and hit anybody I don't carry around guns. I don't own a gun. I don't have a gun in my name.
"I had the cell phone [Blackberry device] in my hand. I don't know what the guys were thinking.
"They must have [mistook the phone for a gun]. That's the only clue I have. I didn't even think it was going to be a situation, until the detectives came to my house, bringing a warrant. They came to my house later that night. They charged me the next day."
Vick suggested that his teenage accusers are trying to blackmail him. "One guy, last week, he just got locked up for armed robbery," Vick said. "They weren't in school at the time [of the alleged incident]. I really don't know what they were thinking."
The same could be said of Vick with regard to his behavior in the Gator Bowl.
"During the game there was a lot of frustration, a lot of things were being said. I jumped up and reacted, without even thinking. I regret that situation. I'm very embarrassed about that situation. It embarrassed my family. My family didn't speak to me for weeks after that."
What his mother did say to him stung Vick.
"My mom, she said something that I didn't really think about. She said, 'What do you think his mom thinks about that situation? She's probably saying, I hate Marcus Vick. He's a bad guy.' If someone were to do that to me, my family would be saying the same thing. I really didn't think of that. At that point, I really wasn't thinking at all."
Vick said after Tech cut ties with him, "It was difficult at first. Very difficult. Some nights I couldn't go to sleep. Some nights I just woke up early in the morning. It was very difficult on me, very difficult on my family.
"The bowl game situation, that's the worst situation. Even when I look at the play, I just catch the chills from watching it. That's the biggest regret. That definitely wasn't me. At the time, I definitely wasn't thinking. As I watch the play, it's crazy. I can't even watch it."
The question is whether a team, as the Denver Broncos did with Maurice Clarett in the third round last year, will look at Vick and believe his immense talents are worth a mid-round or perhaps even a first-day draft choice. Here's betting some team does. At Tech, he was once clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash and likely will run in the 4.4-range here Sunday. He's two years older and a smarter, more patient, and more polished passer than his brother was coming out of school (he'll display his passing skills again March 16 on Tech's campus). His teammates swear by him. Word is he works very hard, and he's coachable.
Virginia Tech gave the second Vick brother several second chances. All Marcus Vick wants now is to get one in the NFL.
"At this point in my life, I just want a team to give me a shot. It doesn't matter the round, or how much money we're talking. I just want a shot to be able to prove my ability."
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Contact him here.
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