Before Michael Vick retired from the NFL, there was one thing he needed to do: write a letter. But not just any letter; a letter to the city of Atlanta.
“This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while,” writes Vick. “Because without Atlanta… I might not even be here to write this today.”
Vick goes on to talk about his time spent in Atlanta, his time spent in prison–he was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his role in a dogfighting operation–his relationship with Matt Ryan and ultimately what it felt like to be honored during halftime of the last regular-season game at the Georgia Dome.
However, a third of the way into the letter he switches gears. He takes his focus off of the gridiron and places it on the virtual playing field.
“We [have] to talk about Madden,” says Vick.
He is referring to the video game franchise created by EA Sports: Madden NFL Football. The version of Vick that appeared in Madden 2004 is widely considered to be the “most dominant Madden NFL player of all time,” according to the creators of the game.
In Madden, players are rated on a scale of 0-99 based on their different skill sets. Vick’s 2004 rating was a 90 overall, including 95 speed, 97 acceleration, 98 throw power, 84 throw accuracy and 92 elusiveness, just to name a few. Oddly enough, Vick wasn’t the highest rated player in the 2004 installment of Madden–six players had a perfect 99 overall rating–and he wasn’t even the highest rated quarterback–Brett Favre was a 98 overall. But his unique speed at the quarterback position made him a nightmare to defend, and, similar to real life, he could run around the defense and throw it over the coverage with deadly effect.
“He was like a cheat code in the game,” said Drew Hixson, a sports management major from Winder, Georgia, who has been playing Madden his whole life. “Nobody could tackle him.”
Think Hixson is exaggerating? Check out the highlights below and see what the buzz is all about.
Highlights via Frankie Vittorini’s YouTube channel.
Vick’s blinding speed and his incredible arm strength created a perfect storm of playmaking ability that, when used correctly, was almost impossible to defend. In the clip above, notice how the user moves Vick out of the pocket on every play. The strategy behind doing so is simple: either the defense commits to guarding the pass or they commit to preventing Vick from scrambling.
If the defense commits to guard the pass, then Vick is fast enough to pick up huge plays on the ground (0:00-0:12 in the clip above). And if the defense commits to stop Vick from running, then more often than not, a receiver will be wide open (0:13-0:21 in the clip above).
In the open letter to Atlanta, Vick writes that, even though Madden 2004 came out over a decade ago, fans still come up to him and eagerly share their stories of playing with his character. Then, they tell him about the “Vick Rule,” which states gamers can choose to play with any team except Atlanta.
“Because if you picked the Falcons, then you got Vick. And if you got Vick, then it was game over.”