'Mc-Vick' - Similar QBs McNab, Vick to duel in playoffs
Thursday, January 9, 2003
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Michael Vick first met Donovan McNabb on a recruiting trip to Syracuse.
They had dinner together, went to a basketball game -- Vick even stayed at McNabb's apartment. A friendship was born.
"He's hilarious," Vick said.
When it came time to pick a college, however, Vick had no desire to follow in McNabb's Orangemen footsteps. Vick signed with Virginia Tech, where he had a brief but stunning career. Now, in his first season as an NFL starter, he's a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons.
If he had chosen Syracuse, "All they would have talked about was No. 5 and Donovan McNabb," Vick said Wednesday. "I wanted to go to a place where I could start my own legacy."
On Saturday night, their paths will cross again -- in the playoffs, no less. Vick and the Falcons travel to Philadelphia to take on McNabb and the Eagles, a game that could wind up being a milestone in both players' careers.
"Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb, what a great show!" Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan said. "Everybody is going to be on their tippy-toes to see who's the better player. Are they going to pass the torch or blow it out?"
McNabb had heard of Vick before the Syracuse visit, which isn't surprising. Everyone was buzzing about this high school quarterback from Virginia, the guy with the strong arm and quick feet who had a chance to be another ... well, McNabb.
The two hit it off right away.
"He's a motivated guy who wants to be the best at everything he does," McNabb said. "When two guys have similar qualities, it carries them a long way."
But it wasn't enough to get Vick to Syracuse.
"We were trying hard," McNabb recalled. "We had a good time sitting down talking and just getting to know each other, but the main thing was his mom really didn't want him to leave Virginia."
Trendsetters at QB
McNabb was drafted second overall by Philadelphia in 1999, while Vick made it to the NFL two years later as the No. 1 pick. They are trendsetters on several levels, helping to bury the prejudices against black quarterbacks while proving the fastest guy on the field doesn't necessarily have to be a receiver or running back.
"When I first came in," McNabb said, "it opened up the doors for a lot of other players who had dreams and aspirations to play on this level.
"Michael Vick is opening the door a little bit more. He's doing some exciting things out there. He's a great athlete. But not only is he a great athlete, he's a good quarterback."
A week ago, this matchup might not have been possible. McNabb, a two-time Pro Bowler, broke his right ankle on Nov. 17 and missed the final six games of the regular season.
Philadelphia earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs as the NFC's top-seeded team, giving McNabb an extra week to heal. He insists that his entire repertoire will be available against the Falcons.
"I've been doing everything up to this point," he said. "I'm very excited and very confident in the ankle."
The 6-foot-2, 226-pound McNabb has put on some extra pounds since he's been in the NFL, helping him absorb the pounding that a pro quarterback takes but taking away a bit of his speed. However, it's worth noting that McNabb had 460 yards rushing at the time of his injury; Vick had 455 at the same point in the season.
Two weeks later, Vick rushed for 173 yards against Minnesota -- a quarterback record -- and finished the season with 776 yards on the ground, second on the team to Warrick Dunn.
"I'm probably a step faster," said Vick, who might be the fastest guy in the league. "He's put on some weight over the past couple of years, I think because he wants to be able to take the hits. That's something I'm considering, too."
While the quarterbacks keep in touch with each other, it's their mothers who are really close.
"They talk all the time," Vick said, grinning. "I can't imagine what they're talking about. Hopefully my mom is rooting for us. She roots for Donovan every week they play. I'm going to call and see whose side she's going to be on this week."