Dwight Freeney and Michael Vick took similar, yet different, paths to the NFL.
Freeney, an excellent pass-rusher, dominated at Syracuse and turned that into a terrific career with the Indianapolis Colts. Vick, the talented dual-threat quarterback from Big East rival Virginia Tech, became an NFL icon both before and after a dogfighting scandal.
When the two were still in their college football days, Vick not only nearly ended Freeney’s career before it began but gave the prolific sack artist another reason to hate quarterbacks.
Dwight Freeney was an excellent pass-rusher
Dwight Freeney still doesn’t get enough love as one of the most dynamic pass-rushers in modern NFL history.
The 11th overall pick in 2002, Freeney totaled 125.5 sacks, 148 tackles for loss, and forced 46 fumbles in 16 seasons. Freeney made seven Pro Bowls and earned first-team All-Pro honors on three occasions.
No stranger to the postseason, Freeney had 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and forced two fumbles across 22 career playoff games. Freeney won a Super Bowl alongside another excellent pass-rusher, Colts teammate Robert Mathis, in February 2007.
Mathis is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023. It would be shocking if voters didn’t elect him to the Hall of Fame before the decade ends.
Michael Vick is an NFL icon
There would be no Kyler Murray or Lamar Jackson without Michael Vick and what he did for the league.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2001, Vick completed 56.2% of his passes for 22,464 yards, 133 touchdowns, and 88 interceptions in 13 seasons.
Vick spent the first six of those seasons in Atlanta, where he completed 53.8% of his passes in six 11,505 yards, 71 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions. He totaled 3,869 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on 7.3 yards per carry in a Falcons uniform.
Arguably the greatest running quarterback in NFL history, Vick ran for 6,109 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career. Vick proved that a Black quarterback could thrive both as a gunslinger and as an agile talent.
In 2006, his final season with the Falcons, Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to total 1,000 rushing yards in a season. Vick finished the year with 1,039 yards on 8.4 yards per attempt.
Michael Vick is why Dwight Freeney hates quarterbacks
Before Dwight Freeney and Michael Vick ever reached the NFL, they were stars in the Big East.
Freeney had 4.5 sacks against Vick and Virginia Tech that October. Virginia Tech, ranked No. 2 at the time, escaped with a 22-14 victory over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
Despite his career game, Freeney suffered a lacerated spleen during the game while hoping to sack Vick. Freeney completed the game but missed the rest of the season.
In a recent interview on Untold Stories, an Instagram show, Freeney reflected on how that game — between his performance and the injury — affected his mindset.
“Well, I have a hatred for quarterbacks. And you’re supposed to have a hatred for quarterbacks if you’re a guy who’s going after ‘em.”
The injury worked out for Freeney, who set NCAA single-season records in sacks (17.5) and forced fumbles (eight) in 2001. The 11 total fumbles Freeney found himself involved in — eight forced and three recovered — set another record.
Freeney, who also had 25.5 tackles for loss, won unanimous All-American honors. Indianapolis drafted him early in the 2002 NFL draft, and the rest is history.