Michael Vick hasn’t worn his Atlanta Falcons jersey for more than a decade, but a few fans still do.
They aren’t prevalent in Houston, where the Falcons will meet the New England Patriots Sunday in Super Bowl LI but they’re there. Walk around the Super Bowl fan plaza for a while and you spot a No. 7 here and there.
Terry Kelley, of Stockbridge, who’s here with his wife Yolanda for the game, sported his Vick jersey the day before the game. Not that he isn’t a Matt Ryan fan. He’ll wear what he called his “updated jersey” to the Super Bowl itself.
“We were never season ticket holders until Michael Vick,” he said. “He put the whole team on his shoulders. He had that competitive spirit. You could tell he wanted to win.”
Yolanda Kelley said Vick “put Atlanta on the map” as an NFL team.
“He got a lot of Atlantans excited about football,” she said.
Vick, who says he’s retiring from the NFL, penned an open letter to Atlanta on the Players’ Tribune web site the other day. The expansive, introspective piece talked about his career rise, his personal lows and what Atlanta has meant to him all along the way.
We happened to run into Vick the day the piece came out, and during a quick interview he talked about the warm welcome Atlanta fans gave him earlier this year, when he and other former players were invited to the Falcons last regular-season game at the Georgia Dome.”
“It started the year off right for me,” he said. “I’m forever grateful. I’m very thankful.”
Falcons fan Cameron Cook, also wearing his Vick jersey in Houston, remains thankful for No. 7’s contribution to the game.
“He kind of revolutionized the quarterback position,” said Cook, who traveled from his home in Kentucky to attend the Super Bowl. “He’s relatable. You saw a guy who was on top. He surrounded himself with the wrong people. Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to come back.”
According to a promotional flyer, Vick was due to have a “retirement party” in Houston hosted by Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane. He told us he planned to return home to watch the Super Bowl, and he’ll be cheering for his former team.
“Atlanta Falcons, hands down,” he said.
As for a return to Atlanta in the future? It’s unclear. Vick did not play the 2016 season and said he's retired, according to ESPN. Vick, the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2001, spent six seasons in Atlanta before serving a 21-month sentence in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring. He played three seasons with the Eagles, starting in 2009. He also played with the New York Jets in 2014 and the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015.
“I won’t say it’s my town,” Vick said. “I just share a small piece of it. That’s all I need.”