Adam Kilgore, THE WASHINGTON POST
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (The Washington Post) – As a general principle, professional football players do not regard other professional football players with awe. The job requires an impenetrable ego, an unwillingness to admit another man can do something they cannot. And so it was an unusual sensation that overcame the Pittsburgh Steelers late this summer, on the day Michael Vick arrived in preseason camp: Reverence.
At 35, Vick is old enough for his teammates to have watched him as transfixed teenagers. A dogfighting scandal landed him in jail and temporarily ruined his career, a stain which his teammates surely knew and which many fans will not forgive him for. Their memories of Vick, though, focused on the spans of time, separated by years, when Vick existed as the most thrilling and coolest football player on the planet.
“He’s a guy that a lot of us have grown up looking at,” Steelers tackle Ramon Foster said in a phone conversation. “There was a few guys like that. A lot of guys had the shoes, his first signature shoe. A few guys said the first jersey they ever had was a Mike Vick jersey.”
The admiration faded out of professional obligation, but it underscores the stage at which Vick finds himself now, as he takes over the Steelers’ offense following a left knee injury to Ben Roethlisberger. Teammates usually only idolize you near the end. And so the next month, or however long Roethlisberger remains sidelined, will likely be Vick’s last chance to lead an NFL contender.