NFL legend Michael Vick visits Alcorn on national Empowerment Tour

Thirteen-year NFL veteran Michael Vick visited Alcorn State University during his HBCU tour to encourage students to defy the odds to reach their goals.

The retired four-time Pro Bowler spoke to students as part of his Empowerment Tour Wednesday, Feb. 26, in the James L. Bolden Student Union Gold Room. About 300 students, faculty, and staff listened to Vick's stories about fame, redemption, and motivation. Vick’s tour has visited Florida A & M and Port Gibson High School and will continue at Texas Southern University and Grambling State University this week.

Vick made history in the 2001 NFL Draft by being the first African-American quarterback to be selected with the number one overall pick. He garnered major acclaim as a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons from 2001-2006. After a two-year absence from the NFL due to serving prison time for dogfighting, Vick returned to the league and had a career resurgence with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2009-2013. He retired in 2015 after a brief stint with the Pittsburg Steelers.

While reflecting on his college years at Virginia Tech, Vick spoke about his time as a player and a student. He was honest about his educational shortcomings and how he wishes he would have taken his schoolwork more seriously. He encouraged the students to stay focused on their studies and avoid the mistakes he made.

“Academics are serious,” said Vick. “If I could go back and do it again, I would have taken school more seriously. Take advantage of your education from the beginning so you won’t have to struggle academically toward the end of your journey. Knowledge is power.”

Growing up in a poverty-stricken area in Newport News, Virginia, Vick was determined to rise above his circumstances to live his dream. He encouraged the crowd that they can also achieve their goals by having confidence and working hard to perfect their craft.

“My confidence in my abilities drove me to make it out of my hometown. I always believed that as an athlete, I was better than everyone else. You can strive to be better than everyone in your field, but you can be humble in doing so. The sky is the limit.”

With graduation approaching in May, some seniors will soon start looking to begin the next phase of their lives in graduate and professional school and the corporate world. Vick gave them tips on how to handle themselves when searching for the right opportunities.

“Believe in yourself, have a plan, and be patient. I know lots of people who came out of college who weren’t patient and made bad decisions because they were eager to make money. Making the wrong decision and rushing into situations will backfire on you. Stick to your passion and build toward your future. It won’t happen overnight, but if you work hard and maintain a positive attitude, you’ll be okay.”

Shifting the conversation to football, Vick shared how inspired he was watching Alcorn great Steve McNair get drafted with the number three overall pick by the Houston Oilers in the 1995 NFL Draft. Vick said once he saw that, he knew he had a shot at making it to the league.

“Steve McNair is a legend. When I saw him get drafted by the Oilers, I knew I had a chance. I didn’t see many black quarterbacks in the NFL when I was in high school, but then this guy from Alcorn came out of nowhere and did great things.”

When asked about being a blueprint for today’s black quarterback, Vick feels proud that his legacy is being carried by NFL quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson. He credits his God-given ability and his coaches for his success.

“Things happen for a reason. I believe God put me in the quarterback position to be an example to future quarterbacks. My success would not have been possible if it weren’t for my coaches and others that supported me. My college coaches taught me so much.”

Antonio Austin, a graduate student, majoring in computer science, admired Vick for his openness and willingness to uplift him and his peers.

"It felt great to witness one of the NFL's best players in person on Alcorn's campus," said Austin. "He gave us an inspiring speech that will stay with me forever. He's very courageous for overcoming all of his trials and still managing to have a great career."

After his speech, Vick spent time greeting students, taking pictures, and signing autographs.