With 2012 nearing its end, Sports Illustrated is set to name its annual Sportsman of the Year. Individual athletes, coaches, and teams have all been given the honor. This year, SI staff asked athletes for nominees. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who is still convalescing from a concussion sustained in Week 10, nominated a hero from his neck of the woods: two-time Olympic gymnastics champion Gabrielle Douglas.
Though she trained for the past few years in Iowa, Douglas grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., and calls it home. Vick is from Newport News, Va., just a short drive away. In his nomination, Vick points out how Douglas keeps up the tradition of great athletes from the area.
The most poignant part of Vick's nomination is about more than Douglas' considerable skills as an athlete. He points out that Douglas is the only black woman to win the all-around gold, and that she serves as a role model for his young daughters.
One thing's for sure: you have girls today aspiring to be like Gabby. I don't have to look far. The younger of my two daughters wants to be a gymnast now. She's been inspired by Gabby and I think it's a beautiful thing. It's awesome, not just that Gabby has become a role model, but that she's aware of it.
Since winning gold in the team race and the individual all-around, Douglas has been everywhere from the White House to "Dancing with the Stars," and it's clear she knows people are watching. But it's not likely she knew that an NFL quarterback was watching so closely. Though Vick has struggled with injuries and poor play this season, he still took the time out to call attention to a 16-year-old gymnast.
Douglas is a professed New England Patriots fan, but I wouldn't be surprised to see her in the Eagles' corner after Vick made a point to be in hers.