The kickoff to Virginia Tech's 2004 opener against national champion USC was minutes away, and Marcus Vick, the Hokies' dual-threat quarterback, prepared in the only way he could. He walked up the stairs in the Atlanta mansion of his famous brother, Michael, and retired to his room. Alone. "My brother was downstairs with his friends; I was upstairs," recalls Vick, who was suspended for all of last season following two off-field incidents. "I closed the door and isolated myself."
Booted from school last August after being convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and, in a separate incident, pleading no contest to marijuana possession and guilty to reckless driving, Vick missed the Hokies' surprising run to the ACC title and the Sugar Bowl. During the season he split time between Atlanta and Suffolk, Va., where his mother lives, completing a drug education and counseling program. In January, after proving to coach Frank Beamer and university president Charles Steger that he had stayed free from trouble, Vick was reinstated at Tech and given another chance, as a junior, to live up to the expectations his surname carries in Blacksburg.
A brilliant spring practice by Vick convinced Beamer to name him the starter, the most important job going to the Hokie who was the least dependable for the last two years. (Vick was also suspended for one game in 2003 for an undisclosed team violation.) "He has made some questionable judgments," Beamer says. "Hopefully he's learned from them."
What's not questioned is Vick's ability. He can run and throw better than his predecessor, Bryan Randall, which should translate into more big plays for the Hokies. "He's one of those guys who can make a better play than you call," quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers says. "He's a nightmare for defensive coordinators."
Also back is most of a tough defense that held opponents to 12.8 points per game (2nd in the nation), so if Vick fulfills his promise, a Rose Bowl appearance is not out of reach. "He's a good person," Beamer says. "I'm hoping this story will have a great ending to it." --Gene Menez
2004 RECORD 10-3 (7-1, 1st in ACC)
FINAL AP RANK 10
RETURNING STARTERS 14
KEY RETURNEES (2004 stats)
TE Jeff King (Sr.) Four TDs were most by a Hokies TE since '90
DE Darryl Tapp (Sr.) Voted top ACC defensive lineman of '04
CB Jimmy Williams (Sr.) 19 passes defended topped the ACC
G Will Montgomery (Sr.) Former walk-on DT is preseason All-ACC
Career wins for Frank Beamer, third most among active I-A coaches but far behind Bobby Bowden (351) and Joe Paterno (343).
Defensive end Darryl Tapp causes all kinds of havoc along--and behind--the line of scrimmage. Undersized at 6'1" and 268 pounds, he's relentless in his pursuit and last year led the team with 81/2 sacks and 161/2 tackles for loss. "He has a motor I have never seen in a man," says former linemate Jim Davis. "I don't even know if he is a man. He might be a robot."
Sept. 4 at N.C. State
10 at Duke
24 GEORGIA TECH
Oct. 1 at West Virginia
20 at Maryland
27 BOSTON COLLEGE
Nov. 5 MIAMI
19 at Virginia
26 NORTH CAROLINA
Marcus has unquestioned athletic ability, but he still has to prove he can be the team leader that Michael was.