Tommy Reamon, Vick's coach at Warwick High and a former pro football player turned actor who performed the role of Delma Huddle in the 1979 movie North Dallas Forty, is a potent influence in Vick's life. "Syracuse was never going to happen for Michael," says Reamon. "I went 2,000 miles away to Missouri, and my family never saw me play. It was important for Michael to remain near his family."
Vick's mother, Brenda, was only 15 when Michael's older sister, Christina, was born, just 16 when she gave birth to Michael and 20 when another son, Marcus, was born. Brenda and the children's father, Michael Boddie, were married in 1989, when Michael was nine. All three older children kept their mother's maiden name, Vick, as their family name. A fourth child, nine-year-old Courtney, uses Boddie. Michael's parents raised him with help from Brenda's mother while Brenda finished high school and took a job at Kmart. She now drives a school bus and pounds one lesson into her kids: "Don't have children while you're young."
At Reamon's urging Beamer redshirted Vick last fall, when the Hokies lost two of their last three regular-season games and finished 9-3. Virginia Tech upperclassmen salivated in anticipation of Vick's playing in 1999—"Couldn't touch him in practice," says Moore—while offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle prepared him for the college game. Early last season Vick sat indifferently through a week's worth of quarterback meetings and got only four questions correct out of 12 on that Friday's QB quiz. Two days later he was read the riot act by Bustle and reformed.
On the Tuesday before the game against Boston College, Vick stood alone in a hallway in the football complex, wearing blue and black surf shorts and a baggy sweatshirt. "At first I didn't take things seriously last year, so it was good that I was sitting," he said. Now? "I'm serious about every part of the job. People are saying I was the missing piece." He smiled wickedly, full of the juice that comes with getting better every day and the thought of making Florida State chase him all over the Superdome.
First, Vick has another job. It seems his little sister is having a nasty time convincing her fourth-grade friends that her big brother is really who she says he is. So as soon as he gets home for a day or two, he's going to her school. "Time for that class to find out who I am," he said.
That class and a whole lot of other people, too.