ATLANTA -- It’s been a little more than 10 years since Michael Vick last donned an Atlanta Falcons jersey and on Monday, the man who one former teammate called “the king of Atlanta,” got that jersey back – albeit framed this time – when he and Roddy White were honored by team owner Arthur Blank in a special retirement ceremony.
And a word that was repeated often during the almost two-hour ceremony for White and Vick is also something Blank has preached since he bought the team in 2002: Family.
“I’ve said this many times, we’re a family,” Blank said in a packed room that included members of the White and Vick families as well as former and current Falcons players.
“Our franchise goes back all these years, and all these players that started with us back in 1966 through 2017 and beyond are part of that brotherhood, and part of that family. And these two gentlemen represent some of the very best of the 53 years.”
Aside from talking about some of his favorite memories and rattling off the many accomplishments of both Vick and White as players, Blank made it clear that the day was also about relationships, second chances and redemption.
“Much of what our family foundation does since 1995 – and we’ve granted close to $40 million in grants since then – has to do with second chances and third chances,” Blank said. “Michael, like everybody on the face of the earth … has made a mistake in his life, and it starts with the person who is speaking now.” <center>
The Falcons made Vick the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft – the first African American quarterback ever to be drafted at the top spot – and in six seasons in Atlanta, he changed the course of the franchise.
“Michael Jackson was the King of Pop, and he changed the culture,” said former Falcons center Todd McClure, who played with Vick all six seasons. “Michael Jordan – who I consider the king of the court – he changed the culture. Michael Phelps, king of the swimming pool, he changed the culture. Michael Vick, king of Atlanta, he changed the culture.”
Vick, whose No. 7 was at one time the top-selling jersey in the country, was named to three Pro Bowls and completed 930 passes for 11,505 yards and 71 touchdowns. Also a legitimate dual-threat as a passer and runner, Vick rushed for 3,859 yards and scored 21 touchdowns on 529 runs as a Falcon. Vick is the only quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in single season.
“I’m very excited and elated to be here,” Vick said. “It’s a great moment for myself and my family. I never thought I’d be here.” <center>
White, who played 11 seasons in Atlanta and is the franchise’s all-time leading receiver with 808 receptions, 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns – all records. His best season came in 2010 when he led the NFL with 115 catches and posted a career-best 1,389 receiving yards.
Former Falcons receiver Brian Finneran introduced White and called his former teammate “the best receiver in the Atlanta Falcons franchise.” Finneran recounted White’s tough start in Atlanta and how he turned his career around “in an instant.”
“Something clicked," Finneran said. “I don’t know if it was me yelling at him every day in practice, fighting in our meeting rooms, yelling at him for being late … something in him clicked. He rattled off six straight seasons with over 80 catches, over 1,150 yards and six touchdowns. He was as special as it gets.
“Consistency, production, toughness, grit, strength, power, attitude, swagger mixed in with a little bit of crazy and you’ve got the best receiver in the Atlanta Falcons franchise,” Finneran said. “And there’s no doubt about it. I don’t care who’s playing today.”
White went through the entire organization, acknowledging former Falcons GM and current team president Rick McKay, former coaches, teammates, staff members, the Blank family – and the family atmosphere in Atlanta.
“Last but not least, my man A.B., I love you to death, man,” White said as he looked at Blank. “You changed me and my family’s values. You did so much for me.
“From the first day I met you, you told me this was going to be a family environment and every day I walked into that building that’s how I treated it – like everybody in here was like my family. And I love him, and I express that each and every day ...”
Neither former Falcon signed a one-day contract to signify their retirement.
“We do not need a contract in place to consider them a part of our family and honor their decision to retire as a Falcon,” said Blank.