Mistaken identity: Little Rock's Vick attracting unwanted attention

Whether he's flashing his driver's license or leaving his name for a table reservation or signing an autograph for a star-struck fan or petting the head of his dog, Dizzy, Mike Vick -- who used to go by Michael -- is always asked the same question: "Yo, are you the Mike Vick?"

"Of course I'm the Mike Vick," says Vick, 31, of Little Rock, Ark. He even works in pro football, too, as a financial adviser for five players, including Raiders tailback Darren McFadden. "I'm older than that Vick, so he's got my name. And I'm Michael Vick Jr., so we had the name for a long time before he started messing it up."

It's a strange existence, working in the NFL arena and sharing a name with a notorious athlete -- especially one currently serving 23 months in prison. You get fan mail. You get hate mail. You sign autographs, even after you make it clear you are not who they think you are. The Mike Vick isn't alone in league circles: The Chris Henry is the NFL's director of player development, an extreme irony considering that the former Bengals receiver could have used some development. The NFL's Henry occasionally gets grief for his name, too. But it pales in comparison. There are a lot of Chris Henrys. There are only a few Mike Vicks.

When the Falcons drafted the former Hokie in 2001, the Little Rock Vick was routinely mistaken for the quarterback. Fans back then knew the name, not the face. And every few days, he'd get a stack of mail, most of which read:
"I'm 8 years old, and you're my favorite NFL player. My favorite play was when you did the backflip into the end zone. Would you sign this for me?"

The fanfare died down for a while, until the quarterback started getting into trouble. And after the dogfighting scandal, the absurdity took off.

Vick has heard all the lines. He gets them at least three times a week. When a TSA guard checks out his ID at the airport, that guard always shows it to another, half-grinning, then snickers one of the following:

"Hey, Mike Vick! Like the quarterback!"

"You need to quit dogfighting."

"Out of prison already?"

"You've lost weight."

Life gets more ridiculous when he phones in a dinner reservation. The host takes his name (softly repeating "Mi-chael Vi-ck" while jotting) and then pauses. Forget that the quarterback is still behind bars and that even as a free man he was never known to spend offseasons in Little Rock, Vick still gets asked: "Are you the Mike Vick, and if so, would you mind signing a few items when you arrive?"

"I tell them, 'I am the Mike Vick, but I'm not the quarterback. But I'll sign whatever you want,'" Vick says. "And sometimes they have me sign it anyway!"

In NFL circles, his name is less shocking and more a joke. Vick has known the McFadden family for years, having grown up two blocks away, and kept in touch once he joined Ameriprise Financial. Yet, whenever McFadden tells anyone that Mike Vick is his adviser, he can't help but giggle a little. When Ian Greengross, McFadden's agent, names his client's money guy, he prefaces it by saying, "I swear to God this is his name."

The Mike Vick doesn't have any interest in meeting that Mike Vick. He was never a big fan in the first place. Doesn't have any interest in managing his money, either. (After the quarterback filed for bankruptcy June 8, claiming to owe creditors between $10 million and $50 million, there's not much left, anyway.) And Vick especially doesn't have any interest in dogfighting. He owns a lhasa apso, which he bought for his 6-year-old daughter, Camiyah.

Even so: "I really don't like the dog," Vick says. "I'd rather have a cat."

Seth Wickersham is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a columnist for ESPN.com.