Elusive as ever
Despite previous statement, Vick still weighing NFL option
Updated: Saturday December 30, 2000 4:14 AM
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Michael Vick shed little light on his "stay or go pro" decision Friday, and his Virginia Tech coaches tried to defuse the matter as one of a 20-year-old struggling to make the right choice.
In a statement delivered extemporaneously before practice, Vick said the question "was not even an issue anymore" and that he doesn't want it to be a distraction as the Hokies prepare for Monday's Gator Bowl.
"As far as I know, the main thing is still the same about me staying in school," Vick said before stepping away without taking questions. He said he would have no further comment on the matter before the game.
The No. 6 Hokies (10-1) play No. 16 Clemson (9-2) on New Year's Day.
Vick pledged on Dec. 15 to return to Virginia Tech next season, but hinted Thursday that he could change his mind after the bowl game, especially after hearing talk that he might be the first player drafted overall.
Beamer, who met with Vick on Thursday night, and offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle said Friday they understand that Vick's decision is hard, but that more should factor into the redshirt sophomore's thinking than the prospect of getting a multimillion-dollar contract and signing bonus.
Courtney Brown, last year's top choice overall, signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns that could pay him as much as $45 million over the next six seasons, including a $10.9 million signing bonus.
"I understand it completely," Bustle said of the financial lure, "but the other side is if you're not ready for that league, they spit you out and throw you away. I don't care how much money they put into you."
Bustle said he has counseled Vick about the decision, but thinks other people, possibly including agents, have made sure Vick knows the potential gains of leaving school early after this season to pursue an NFL career.
"I don't think there's any question," Bustle said, "because I don't know how (players) find out about all this stuff without talking to somebody. I know he hasn't gotten that stuff from us yet."
Conversations the two have shared include discussions of other quarterbacks who left school with high expectations and flopped, he said.
"We just talk about being ready for that league so that you can stay there," he said. "He knows enough about the league and who those quarterbacks are and what they've struggled to do, and he doesn't want to be, in a few years, looking at XFLs and going that route."
Beamer, who seemed miffed to be revisiting the issue that stalked the Hokies all season, disagreed with the notion that Vick can't improve his stock by walking away from being the top pick to stay at Virginia Tech.
"He's going to be a high draft choice whenever he comes out. That's a given. I think how prepared you are when you come out is the issue," he said. "What we talked about last night is rather than listening to a lot of people here and there, let's find out exact answers and then make a decision. I think that's where he is as far as I'm concerned."
Vick's mobility and powerful left arm make him a prototype for the NFL's growing ranks of two-dimensional quarterbacks, and some draft experts have made him the clear choice as the first pick. Many also say he still has much to learn, but has talent that would be hard to bypass.
Lee Suggs, who scored 28 touchdowns to lead the nation in scoring and still took a backseat to Vick this season, echoed Beamer's hope that the issue die so the Hokies can get ready to be at their best against Clemson.
But, he said, he doesn't envy Vick having to ultimately decide.
"You've got one choice to be a millionaire, the other choice to come back to school," the softspoken sophomore said. "I'm glad it's not me."
Vick has until Jan. 12 to declare himself available for the draft.