FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – When Michael Vick signed as a free agent in April, the New York Jets didn’t just add a veteran quarterback to their roster. They also got the “go-to” quarterback for fullback Tommy Bohanon when he played the "Madden" video game series growing up.
In his second year in the NFL, Bohanon still gets excited by the little things about being an NFL player, and one of those little things happens to be the Jets addition of Vick this offseason. Growing up and even well into college, Bohanon remembers that Vick, who was drafted in 2001 when Bohanon was 10, was his quarterback of choice when he played "Madden."
And now with minicamp over last week, the Jets second-year fullback is lining up in the backfield next to a player who, just a couple of years ago, he was playing with on a video game. Now he’s providing protection for a quarterback in Vick who helped revolutionize the position and became an icon in the video game culture.
“He’s one of the most electrifying players at his position. It’s exciting,” Bohanon said. “In 'Madden,' I played with him when he was with the Falcons and then when he went to the Eagles.
"I don’t play much anymore. Probably up till a couple years ago, like my final year of college. I’d say he was one of the most fun to play with. You could have him drop back to throw and then have an 80-yard run. I think he still can do that, he’s very fast, still very quick. It’s exciting to see what he can do.”
Such is the respect level that Vick has in this Jets locker room, or frankly any locker room he ever walked into.
The team talks about him and his impact and what he brings to the table. There’s no doubt that Vick is more than just a mentor to Geno Smith, the second-year quarterback who made 16 starts last year but had his fair share of struggles and growing pains in that rookie season. Though a backup, Vick has the respect of the locker room beyond just the quarterback’s room.
Tight end Jeff Cumberland said that Vick “is someone you watch to see how he does things, even though I’m not a quarterback you see how he works, how he prepares.” Others in the locker room call him “a true leader even if he doesn’t start” or “someone who demands respect for what he’s done.”
And Bohanon’s memory of playing with Vick in a video game lends a humorous anecdote to the addition of Vick, but it is still poignant in its simplicity. He was one of the first true dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, someone comfortable in the pocket and who could make all the throws but still was athletic enough to take off and scramble. He put his body on the line when he played and for a young Jets team in need of leadership, he seems to be a perfect fit.
He will likely go down as one of the greatest athletes to play the position. That’s why the innovators behind the "Madden" series gave him such a unique skillset in the game and why someone like Bohanon would choose him as his quarterback.
To underscore just what Vick commands in the locker room, look no further than the huddle. Head coach Rex Ryan told a story several weeks ago of one of his fullbacks in the huddle during OTAs and that when Vick spoke to him, he responded and called the veteran quarterback “Sir.”
Ryan laughed, but it is hard to imagine any Jets quarterback since Joe Namath commanding this kind of respect.
Undrafted rookie free agent Chad Young brushed aside the question of if he was the fullback who responded with “Sir” in the huddle by saying “I honestly don’t remember.” Bohanon, the only other fullback on the roster, seems to have a clearer memory.
“I did not,” Bohanon said. “I definitely did not.”
He may not have said “Sir” in the huddle, but he had his own way of showing respect for his teammate Vick, even if it was something as simple as in a video game.
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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer