Mike Vick is one of the most important and polarizing players of his generation. One of the few athletes in history who's personality had nothing to do with his popularity; it was the way he played the game. Before he was incarcerated in the prime of his career, Vick was on his way to being the biggest athlete in American sports. He played football with an electricity never seen before: juking and hurdling opponents like Barry Sanders while having a rocket for an arm, taking Randall Cunningham's game, and adding gamma rays to it. Vick was the Allen Iverson of the NFL, a cultural phenomenon who defied the laws of not only conformity, but physics as well. He's taken his fall from grace in stride, becoming a mentor for a new crop of NFL stars who looked up to him when they were kids.
Fresh off ankle surgery, Vick has no plans of playing in the NFL again. Instead he's going to focus his efforts on his brand V7, helping young players, and the American Flag Football League, a professional league where he plans to continue playing. With the way injuries are forcing players to consider early retirement, pro flag football may be a decent alternative in the near future for many athletes. The AFFL plans on taking advantage of this and help former players continue their careers. The inaugural game with be Tuesday, June 27 and will feature Vick and former NFL running back Justin Forsett.
Below are some of the rules the young league already has in place:
We talked to Mike about his new endeavor, which current NFL QB reminds him of himself, and if he plans on playing in the league again.
How’d you get down with this flag football league?
I was approached by one of my former reps at Nike and he asked me if I wanted to play or be an advisor. I thought it would be a great idea to make the transition to a different level of football. And the fact that it was professional made me wanna be a part of it.
Flag football is less taxing on your body than the NFL.
People wanna see the passing game. They love the run game too depending on who’s doing the running, fans wanna see the ball getting thrown around. So, I think this could give fans another outlet.
There isn't going to be any blocking. Will the quarterbacks be able to run after Mississippi count or something like that?
I think it's going to be structured where if you can escape, and beat the pass rush you can escape. I don't know the exact rules, but there's going to be a rush. You're not going to be able to sit back there, and hold it the whole time. So, it's going to make it more intriguing.
Each team is going to have their own quarterback?
Yeah. There should be a couple quarterbacks on each team. Each team should have at least three quarterbacks, but there will be at least one primary starter, maybe two. Guys will probably rotate. I don't know what the lineups will be like, but I'll be heavy in favor of guys rotating.
"You might be a guy who is a lawyer, but has a tremendous amount of talent. If you come out and make the team then you can play. You'll be playing with former professionals. So, the experience is for everybody."
Talk about you advisory role. What does that entail?
It entails me getting people involved, kind of recruiting and getting guys to understand the concept. Guys who want to continue to play the game, influencing them to come out, helping them become better passers. More so, just helping build a league from the ground up, and I'm glad I was one of the first to be involved. If this league turns out to be a success I think it will be a great opportunity for a lot of kids.
You and Justin Forsett are going to play in the first game. Has league reached out to other current or former players?
Yeah, and a ton of other guys. The rosters are filling up, but I'll be out there playing to the best of my ability. I just had ankle surgery. So, I'm going to see what I can do, but I'll definitely be passing the football. I reached out to Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Dennis Dixon, Aaron Rouse. A lot of guys who are freshly retired, and some of them have significant injuries that won't allow them to play at their best. So, still may reach out to Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, and see if they want to play.
It's going to be on a bigger field than arena football, right?
Yeah absolutely. It's a normal football field I think. As far as distance to the end zone I don't know if it will be 100 yards or 80, but right now I think we are leaning towards 100 yards. There won't be any gimmicks or anything outside of what football is all about. We're trying to keep it as organic as possible.
Have you heard of the 3-on-3 basketball league that Ice Cube is starting? Is this something you guys are trying to do with this league?
Yeah, and just give normal guys an opportunity to come play. You might be a guy who is a lawyer, but has a tremendous amount of talent. If you come out and make the team then you can play. You'll be playing with former professionals. So, the experience is for everybody. We're not limited to who can play, or how you can play. You just have to make the team, but it's going to be tough playing with former professional guys, and that's the intriguing part about it.
Do you think flag football might be the future of football, considering the concussion and all the injuries, maybe 10, 20 years down the line?
Yeah maybe 10, 20 years from now, but I think the NFL will always dominate. I think kids grow up wanting to play in the NFL. This game will consist of a lot of guys who are just pure athletes. This won't be suited for offensive and defensive lineman, really. But those are the reasons the NFL will always exist. Nothing will ever change with that.
I saw something about the flags having magnets instead of Velcro. Could you talk about that an are you guys trying out any other new technology?
It's just a different dynamic. It's a hassle sometimes dealing with Velcro straps. It's old school. So, the world is always evolving and constantly changing. So, when we use our means, in terms of production of what we we’re doing, that was just another additive to what we could make out of having something different. Just having that element makes it extra special, makes it easy to attach, detach, and I think it's going to help the game. As far as new tech, we re still in the beginning stages, and things will continue to evolve from here.
It's going to be a 7-on-7 game. How deep are the rosters going to be?
Yeah, 7on7. It's going to be close to 10 to 12 man rosters is what we're thinking. Two or three reserves. Guys will go both ways, play offense and defense, and that's just going to make it fun. You'll see guys playing different positions. You might see a quarterback lining up at cornerback, and really get a chance to see what his skills are really like. So, hopefully the guys are younger and not older, but I expect a lot of the older guys to be quarterbacks.
Are you going to play a little safety?
I don't know. It depends if I can move around a little bit.
The NFL recently loosened their end zone celebration rules. Are you guys going to have celebration penalties or any of that kind of stuff?
What I do know is I think guys are going to come out, and they're going to have fun. We're going to have a set of rules, but they are not going to be strict. We want a lot of people to have some form of entertainment, which I think is important, and I think that's what the game of football is all about. You gotta congratulate guys, and you gotta let them celebrate when they score. It's so hard to get into the endzone. You gotta make every single trip a memory.
Are you officially hanging it up in terms of the NFL?
Yeah. I’m just coming off ankle surgery, and teams are at OTA's right now. They're moving forward. I really don't know as of right now. Most importantly, I want to focus on the flag league. I want to focus on my brand V7, continuing partnerships with various companies that I'm involved with, and just looking to expand my brand, and continuing to help kids. So, if there's an opportunity that comes about maybe I'd have to consider, but as of now no.
Talk about V7, and the stuff you're doing with kids.
We have the V7 Elite Playmaker Showcase. It's a combine not a camp. Kids come out and compete one on one drills, quarterback drills, running back drills, and receivers drills. Quarterbacks get to throw one-on-one to the receivers. Offensive line versus defensive line. It's a chance to get out and be competitive, show your stuff, get college recognition, get national recognition, and have a chance to get five star recruits to come out. We also have middle school ages 10 to 13 who are able to come out, and compete the day before or the day after. It's been such a good response. We're on an eight city tour, and looking at more cities. It depends on the time factor, but they've been successful thus far, over 450 kids in Nashville and Dallas. So, looking to do better this weekend in Atlanta.
Have you ever thought about coaching later on, maybe high school?
Later on the down the road I plan to get involved in coaching, and getting into it heavy, and just helping players transition, and just become the best they can be. I feel like I can coach a variety of positions, specifically the quarterback position, but I'm going to keep it open man. I studied the game. I'm living vicariously through these kids, and want to help them succeed, and get to the next level, which is college for them, and then maybe the opportunity to play in the NFL.
What advice would you give to the young quarterbacks that just got drafted? Have any reached out to you?
I talked to Deshaun Watson last week, and I talked to DeShone Kizer. These guys are guys who just want nothing but the best for themselves, and for the team that they play for first and foremost, and they're ready to compete with any competition on any level whether it's a veteran or another rookie. Those guys are going in with a great sense of competitiveness, and looking to work hard.
For this generation you were one of the most important athletes. Which current quarterbacks remind you the most of yourself?
A couple years ago I would have said RG3. I think Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam [Newton]. He's elusive, but a different version of me, but all those guys have tremendous upside, and I think the way I changed the way how the position was played, those guys took it up, and are doing it at a high level.