BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The doors that lead to the large
auditorium where Virginia Tech's football team meets are kept
propped open these days, giving passers-by a clear view to what
once appeared to be the Hokies' inner sanctum.
Outside, the words "Michael Vick Hall" on the wide open wooden
doors are hardly detectable, and have been for weeks since his
legal troubles became increasingly apparent.
While the goal of minimizing Vick's impact at Virginia Tech
seems clear, in the offices where coach Frank Beamer and his
assistants are preparing for their season opener on Saturday
against East Carolina, the support for the Atlanta Falcons
quarterback is unwavering.
"I thought Michael Vick took a big step yesterday," Beamer
said Tuesday, speaking of Vick's statement of apology and regret
that came minutes after he pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting
conspiracy charge in Richmond, possibly ending his career.
"I thought he was extremely sincere. I'm pulling for Michael
Vick. I know how I know him, like him, think about him. I'm pulling
for Michael Vick."
Beamer, who coached Vick for three seasons and whose team rode
his dazzling skills to the Sugar Bowl national championship game in
2000, met with Vick at the NFL draft in April, around the same time
Vick met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Atlanta Falcons
owner Arthur Blank. Vick admittedly lied to Goodell and Blank about
"We'll keep the conversation and what was said between us,"
Beamer said when asked if Vick also had lied to him at their
meeting in New York.
Beamer said he hasn't spoken with Vick since, and it's clear
Vick's problems is not a favorite topic.
The Hokies already are in the midst of an intense week,
preparing for the first game since a gunman killed 32 people and
himself on the Virginia Tech campus.
The shootings happened nine days before local officials in Surry
County raided a home Vick owned as part of a drug investigation,
setting off what evolved into the dogfighting probe that has seen
Vick and three associates plead guilty.
Each faces as much as five years in prison when sentenced later
The NFL has suspended Vick indefinitely without pay. The Falcons
intend to pursue the $22 million in bonus money he already received
in a $130 million contract signed in 2004.
Several Hokies players saw the former Virginia Tech star on
television Monday, either on his way into the federal courthouse
greeted by protesters and supporters, on his way out to the same
reception or struggling to express his sorrow on a podium later.
Linebacker Vince Hall said it was a scene players could learn
"You've always got to make the right decisions, and if you do
wrong, you're going to pay for it and all you can do is serve your
time for it and change," he said.
Vick's somber apology was a good and convincing beginning, Hall
"For him to come out and talk about it and [say] 'Yes, I did it
and I'm sorry' and to apologize to the kids, that's the main
thing," he said. "It's the kids that look up to him and once you
say sorry to them, there's not much you can say after that."
Tailback Branden Ore, who spent a semester working in a
warehouse when he was slacking academically and was told by his
coaches to go home and evaluate how much football meant to him, has
met Vick a few times and found him to be a good guy.
The lesson Vick is learning, though, came through loud and
"I think anybody that's in that kind of position knows that
just as quick as you get built up, they'll break you down. You've
just got to be careful of what you're doing and who you are hanging
with," the starting tailback said.
But, he added, he agreed Vick already has made a first step
"From the impression that I got, the speech was sincere. He
didn't have it written down. That was straight from the heart, so I
would say America is a forgiving country once you show people that
you are really sincere about the mistakes that you made."
The lesson, wide receiver Justin Harper said, was much like the
one the Hokies have been highlighting each day since the April 16
shootings brought tragedy to campus.
"You've got to value each day," he said.