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Closer Look

Dayne, Hamilton no surprise; Vick the shocker

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Posted: Saturday December 11, 1999 11:24 PM

  Michael Vick Vick's 180.4 efficiency rating is second-best in NCAA history Doug Pensinger/Allsport

By Albert Lin, CNN/SI

NEW YORK -- The biggest surprise at Saturday's Heisman Trophy presentation certainly wasn't the finish at the top; winner Ron Dayne and runner-up Joe Hamilton were long presumed to end up 1-2 in the voting.

The shocker, though, came at No. 3: Virginia Tech redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Vick. With 319 points, Vick edged Purdue's Drew Brees (308 point) to tie Herschel Walker (1980) and Clint Castleberry (1942) as the highest-finishing freshmen in Heisman history.

It's not that Vick didn't deserve the recognition; it's just that he was off the national radar screen until midseason and didn't put up overwhelming numbers (1,840 passing yards, 585 rushing yards -- though his QB rating of 180.4 is the second-best in NCAA history). Plus, there is a general bias against underclassmen. But voters couldn't ignore one thing: Vick is the biggest reason for Virginia Tech's 11-0 regular season. The results show that Vick gained more points in each subsequent week of balloting -- coinciding with the added attention given to the Hokies in their push for the Sugar Bowl.

"I feel I'm a great leader no matter what I'm doing -- whether it's at home playing a backyard football game or teaching someone to do something," says Vick, whose idols growing up were Steve Young and Randall Cunningham. "I want to be in the position of leading the team, of being looked up to.

"If my team sees me rattled, it can carry on to them and they won't be the same."

That's the most amazing thing about Vick -- his composure. The 19-year-old is quiet and softspoken, but also intelligent, thoughtful and unusually mature. When asked about Florida State receiver Peter Warrick, who finished sixth in the voting after missing two games for a theft arrest, Vick says all the right things: "Peter Warrick should be here right now in my place because of all the things he's done for college football. I feel sorry for Peter Warrick, but he'll have a great career in the NFL, he'll be very successful. This is something he has to learn from, and my heart goes out to Peter Warrick."

If you passed him on the street, Vick would not jump out at you as a football player. Listed at 6-foot-1, he is probably closer to 5-11. He has broad shoulders but not an overly impressive physique. His football skill, though, is evident as soon as he steps on the field. He has a cannon for a left arm (even though he's a natural righty), 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash and an elusiveness that has led to comparisons to former Syracuse star Donovan McNabb. Vick chatted with McNabb before Virginia Tech played at Temple, but he already knew the advice the Philadelphia Eagles starter was sharing.

"Continue to work hard, continue to be humble. When you get a big head that's when your level of play goes down," Vick says. "You have to stay focused, know what you want out of life, stay humble, to keep going in the right direction."

Vick hopes to return to the Downtown Athletic Club in the future and to be able to talk about an NFL career down the road, but for now he is thinking about one thing only: the national championship game against Florida State, Jan. 4 in New Orleans. The Hokies began to look at film about a week ago, and with finals wrapping up their preparation will swing into full gear.

"I love the thought of us not having a chance to beat Florida State -- that just drives and motivates us," Vick says with a smile. "I hope people continue to think that way, because maybe we'll win and shock the world."

 
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