CollegeFootballNews.com 20th Anniversary Top 20 Players
Who were the top 20 players since CFN started in 1998? No. 10 Michael Vick QB Virginia Tech
CFN Era Top 20 Players: No. 10 Michael Vick, QB Virginia Tech
CollegeFootballNews.com is turning 20 this season, so we’re looking back on the greatest players, games, coaches and more since we first kicked things off back in 1998.
For the Top 20 Players since CFN started, the rules are simple. Who made the biggest impact, who were the most important, and who were ones who generated the most buzz – for good and bad?
This isn’t necessarily a list of the most talented players – that’s what the NFL Draft is for. Who were the defining players of the last 20 years?
Also, nothing before 1998 counts.
Michael Vick, QB Virginia Tech (1998-2000)
Virginia Tech was on a roll under head coach Frank Beamer.
After struggling for six years with an ugly 24- 40-2 record, finally, things started to turn around with a surprising 1993 season going 9-3, a second place finish in the Big East in 1994, and a share of two straight conference titles in 1995 and 1996, highlighted by a dominant 28-10 win over Texas in the 1995 Sugar Bowl.
All of a sudden, Virginia Tech was starting to become very good, and very cool.
But at the same time, Syracuse was also rolling, with high-powered offenses led for a stretch by brilliantly talented quarterbacks Marvin Graves, Don McPherson, and best of all, Donovan McNabb, who was about to finish up his amazing career in 1998.
For a Syracuse attack that emphasized mobile quarterbacks with big arms, it seemed like the perfect spot for a raw, but undeniably talented prospect to go and grow into the school’s next big star.
Instead, Michael Vick chose to stay closer to home, picking Virginia Tech, where he would get to sit and learn for a year while Al Clark was doing his thing as the team’s veteran QB. And then, if all went well, Vick would be able to compete for the starting job after a few years of grooming.
So Vick redshirted his first season while the Hokies came up with another strong year, finishing 9-3 overall and second in the Big East.
But while the offense was good, and the defense was amazing, there was a growing buzz.
This Vick guy on the scout team – who clocked in a 4.25 40 – was absolutely destroying one of the nation’s best defenses in practice after practice.
The Magical Season
Vick got the starting call in 1999 – with a warm-up game against James Madison before diving into the rest of the season. In just under 20 minutes, he showed college football what the Hokies defense had seen over the previous year.
JMU never had a chance – losing 47-0 – with Vick running for three touchdowns highlighted by a wild flip into the end zone for his final score. But he got hurt on the play, causing him to miss the layup win over UAB and struggle in a 31-11 win over Clemson.
As the season went on, he came up with a ton of electrifying runs, but it was his improved, efficient passing that made the difference for an offense that found an extra gear to go along with the brick wall of a D.
While he finished the season completing just 58% of his passes, he was bombing away, averaging a ridiculous 20.4 yards per completion with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, to go along with 682 yards and nine scores on the ground.
The Hokies ripped through a rising Miami team 43-10, and destroyed Boston College to take the Big East title to finish the regular season 11-0, while Vick was on his way to finishing third in the Heisman race.
The D hadn’t allowed more than 20 points all year – giving up more than 11 points just four times – while Vick made the offense fly.
Now Virginia Tech would get its shot at Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
2000 Sugar Bowl
It was Peter Warrick’s win, but it was Michael Vick’s game.
Florida State pulled away to win 46-29 to take the national title, with Warrick – the Seminole’s amazing wide receiver – catching six passes for 163 yards and two scores – while Chris Weinke threw for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
But everyone came away from the game talking about Vick, who put on an artistic show of escapability, mobility, and moxie, running against the loaded FSU defense for 97 yards and a touchdown, and throwing for 225 yards and a score as the Hokies rallied from down 21 for a 29-28 lead.
And then Warrick and the Noles took over. But again, Vick was the star.
(Seriously, go to around the 3:20 mark to see the what definition of fast is. And remember, this was a Florida State D full of NFL-caliber athletes.)
The Hottest Player In College Football
The Sugar Bowl performance led to an offseason of off-the-charts hype for Vick and a Virginia Tech team expected to be in the thick of the national title chase again.
Vick was the favorite to win the Heisman, the program was becoming the coolest thing going because it had the one of the coolest players ever.
And No. 7 didn’t disappoint,
He came out smoking, running for 102 yards and two scores on just eight carries in an easy win over Akron, and ripped apart Boston College for 210 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 233 yards and two scores against West Virginia as the Hokies started out 8-0.
But he and the Hokies ran into a Miami team that was growing into an all-time juggernaut.
Vick got battered and beaten in the 41-21 loss, leaving the game after completing just 2-of-5 passes for nine yards and running three times for five more.
He returned late in the year and was his normal self as the Hokies finished 11-1. During Vick’s two seasons, Virginia Tech went 22-2 with losses to a Florida State team that won the national title, and a Miami team that beat an FSU team that would go on to play for the national title.
The Hokies were pretty good.
More than the stats, and more than the honors, Michael Vick changed the quarterback position forever.
He might have been just barely six feet tall, but no quarterback ever had his combination of all-timer speed with the arm to put the ball anywhere on the field.
Before becoming a transcendent and controversial NFL superstar, he was an All-American, a Big East Player of the Year, and twice made his mark in the Heisman chase, finishing sixth in 2000 along with his 1999 third place finish.
CFN 20th Anniversary lists compiled by Rich Cirminiello, Pete Fiutak, Phil Harrison & Russ Mitchell