Twelve years ago, I was a Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Speech Communication. Donovan McNabb was a student of mine (excellent student) in a few classes and I remember that right before one class meeting in the Spring of '97 or '98, Donovan approached me and asked if a Syracuse football recruit could sit in on my class.
Donovan was hosting the young man and it was customary to let the recruits sit in on a class during their visit. I asked Donovan who he was and he told me he was the kid that would someday replace him as the QB at Syracuse.
The young recruit was named Michael Vick.
I remember saying hello to Michael and welcoming him to class. He seemed shy and even a bit distant. He was quiet and withdrawn but polite. He sat attentively for the three hour night class and after the class was over, he ducked out with Donovan into the cold, Syracuse night.
I saw the young men walking side by side away from Sims Hall and toward the center of campus. All I could think was that this young man named Michael Vick would someday take over the reigns as Syracuse QB and lead our beloved Orangemen through the end of the 20th century team in the same way Donovan did.
Boy was I wrong.
You all know how the story ends. Michael wound up enrolling at Virginia Tech and Syracuse has spent twelve years looking for Donovan's heir apparent as they have drifted further into college football obscurity.
I bet many Syracuse fans wonder what could have been had Michael had enrolled at Syracuse, sat behind Donovan for his freshman year, and then spent three years as the starting QB.
When Vick's legal woes began, I often wondered what would have happened if he had come to Syracuse and had a positive role model like Donovan for a full year. I wonder what he could have learned not just about football and school, but about life. Would that have made an impact on Michael Vick.
I know he did not have many positive role models growing up in Hampton News, Virginia but I will always believe old No. 5 could have made a difference in Vick's life. The world will never know what could have been but there may be a new chapter to the story that will allow us to still witness what could be.
These memories have been rekindled with the Eagles signing of Michael Vick to a two-year contract.
Like Yogi Berra once said, "it's deja vu all over again."
I'm not here to speculate on whether or not Vick will be the heir apparent to Donovan, in the same way he could have been twelve years ago. I am not going to gaze into my crystal ball and speculate on what Donovan thinks about the signing or what QB controversy may pop up if the Eagles hit a rough patch during the season.
The talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network will do plenty of that in the coming days. I'm not even here to critique the signing of Vick and how this drama will play out in front of the rowdiest fans east of Oakland-Alameda County in a town that really has never fully embraced McNabb in the way I think they should. I'm just here to say I think it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
It's been 12 years since I saw these two young men walking side-by-side into the cold and dark Syracuse night. It was an image I expected to see the following season.
I guess I just needed to wait a little bit longer.