An obvious funny name that depicts a cartoon character or some type of fictional character in a comic book. In the case of one Michael Vick, the name was used as an alias. For what you ask?
Coming off a successful 2004 season in which the Falcons found themselves in the NFC Championship Game with a then rookie head coach in Jim Mora Jr., Vick was slowly transcending into a megastar in the NFL.
Madden video game covers and Nike shoe deals were just the tip of the iceberg. Vick navigated his way into numerous endorsements, a nine-year, $130 million dollar contract extension following the 2004 season, and a growing popularity in the African-American community that resulted in appearances in music videos.
By this time, Michael Vick was a $100 million dollar quarterback and arguably the most popular in the entire NFL.
Upon the beginning of the offseason following the 2004 season, a young lady named Sonya Elliott enters the picture. With her came a civil lawsuit in tow. A civil lawsuit claiming that Vick allegedly gave her genital herpes in 2002. During that alleged ordeal, her story was that Vick failed to inform her of the STD and that Vick visited clinics for treatments.
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Which is where the alias name “Ron Mexico” comes into play as Vick was accused of using the name at the clinics with intentions on hiding his true identity. Ron. Mexico. Easily one of the worst names used in an alias manner in the history of mankind.
Eventually, the lawsuit was settled out of court. Yet, it was another stumbling block on Vick’s road as an NFL quarterback. The on-the-field wonders presented by Vick on Sunday’s were enough the magically capture the attention of players and viewers worldwide. However, a pattern was being developed. Slowly but surely.
Under Vick’s leadership, the Falcons started 6-1 in 2005 with the only loss up to that point was by the score of 21-18 to the eventual No. 1 seed Seattle Seahawks. The team picked up where they left off and continued to ride high because of the most electric player in the NFL in Vick.
A speed bump midseason which was a mixture of odd losses and key injuries to players on defense saw the Falcons go 2-6 in the last eight weeks of the season. In result, Vick and the Falcons missed the playoffs. One season removed from the NFC Championship Game, the Falcons found themselves 8-8 and watching the playoffs from the confines of their living room.
Vick did however earn his third Pro Bowl honors that season, as he passed for 2,412 yards and 16 touchdowns as well as rush for 597 yards and six more touchdowns.
Even with the mediocrity of the Falcons, Vick’s status as a celebrity was at a near apex. The Forbes List in 2005 of the most powerful celebrities ranked Vick 33rd overall. Notice I said celebrities and not just strictly athletes.
At that time, Vick was the highest rated football player and ranked above such accomplished names such as Matt Damon, Derek Jeter, Prince, David Copperfield, Phil Mickelson and Alex Rodriguez. With endorsements from Coca-Cola, EA Sports, AirTran and others, the talented quarterback raked in close to $7 million annually in endorsement money. Vick was a star. An obvious star on the field, but a head-turning star off the field as well.
The “Calm” Before The Storm
The 2006 season soon came over the horizon for Vick. At this point, even with only two playoff seasons and a couple of playoff wins, Vick was at the pinnacle of popularity in the NFL, sports and media. An interesting notion was that Vick was a sixth-year quarterback by this point and his career-high in passing yards was 2,936 yards.
Keep in mind that this was a time where teams such as the Colts, Saints, and others were generating high-powered offenses with Vick and his unique style of play, being as close to an afterthought as it can possibly be.
However, Vick used the 2006 season to make a statement that even though the Falcons were not playoff mainstays, he was still the most explosive weapon in the NFL at that time.
Vick became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season as he rushed for 1,039 yards and two touchdowns that season. Vick had three games with over 100 rushing yards including rushing for 166 yards on the road against the Saints in late November.
Even with his stellar season, a 5-2 start to the season for the Falcons, once again took a turn for the worst and the Falcons ended the season 7-9 and of course, out of the playoffs. Back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs cost Jim Mora Jr. his job. Yet, owner Arthur Blank still focused on building around Vick. Blank envisioned having his own high-powered offense and reached out the Bobby Petrino as head coach to drive the Falcons towards lighting up scoreboards.
The transition from Mora to Petrino came with considerable expectations. Rightfully so, because of Vick’s already elite talent, and the opportunity to add his game-changing running ability to a different scheme.
We would soon find out that Vick would make a personal transition from one environment to another that will alter the future for himself, the Atlanta Falcons, the city of Atlanta, and quite possibly, the NFL as well.