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Teel: Former Hokies great Michael Vick partnering with firm to assist young athletes in NIL space

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The question occurred to Michael Vick the moment the NCAA approved name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes last July: How much might he have earned after quarterbacking Virginia Tech to an undefeated regular season and No. 2 national ranking in 1999?

“Sky’s the limit,” Vick said Wednesday. “Might have stayed in school another year.”

Seven years removed from an NFL career that made him millions in endorsements, Vick is partnering with a new business aiming to help college athletes manage the emerging NIL space. Given the football conquests he authored and personal setbacks he surmounted, Vick should be a compelling voice to Levels Sports Group’s clients.

Levels announced Wednesday that Vick is joining the firm as a partner and head of athlete development. Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei and University of Southern California class of 2023 recruits Malachi Nelson and Makai Lemon are among the athletes affiliated with Levels.

Nelson is a quarterback at Los Alamitos High near Los Angeles, and Lemon is his top receiver. Both committed originally to Oklahoma but flipped to USC when Sooners coach Lincoln Riley left for the Trojans.

Vick traveled to Las Vegas last month and huddled with Levels founder Jason Giangrande and Nelson. He said he has spoken via phone multiple times with Uiagalelei, who also hails from California.

“It was clear to me that Mike wanted to share his knowledge and experience with our talent as our goal is to help them navigate this ever-changing space properly,” Giangrande said in a statement. “Mike wants to ensure our athletes are making the best business decisions currently while simultaneously setting them up for long-term success.”

An NFL analyst for Fox Sports, Vick aspires to assist athletes across all sports, men and women. But he has a special affinity for quarterbacks.

“At the age of 19, when I took over the job at Virginia Tech, I instantly realized it was a lot of responsibility,” Vick said. “There’s really no margin for error. All eyes are on you, from your coaches to your peers.

“I like that aspect of the quarterback position, because you really have to grow into a man. You face the media, deal with pressures, deal with scrutiny, learn how to bounce back. That’s hard as a young man.”

Vick led the Hokies to 11-1 records in 1999 and 2000, his redshirt freshman year ending with a loss to Florida State in the national championship game. He left Virginia Tech with two seasons of eligibility remaining, in large measure to care for his impoverished family in Newport News.

The first pick of the 2001 NFL draft, Vick had comported himself well as a collegian. But as a pro, his role in a dogfighting ring landed him in federal prison and bankruptcy court. He subsequently rehabilitated his football career and, in the eyes of many, his image.

Since his 2009 release from custody, Vick has spoken to scores of youth groups, and he recently launched the Vick Family Dream Fund. The non-profit is designed to assist formerly incarcerated citizens regain their footing in society and to provide community programs such as financial seminars, vocational training and youth sports camps.

Indeed, with Levels, Vick will focus on not only NIL opportunities but also financial literacy.

“That was part of the reason I got with Levels,” said Vick, a four-time Pro Bowl selection. “These young men and women, it’s important they learn to manage money early ... and get their life started on the right track. ... With NIL, [some athletes] don’t have to feel the pressure of playing pro ball [as soon as possible]. They can just relax and play college ball.”

Vick’s job with Fox precludes many in-season returns to Virginia Tech, but he remains close to the program and has spoken multiple times with new Hokies coach Brent Pry.

“A lot of what I’m doing now, I always keep Virginia Tech in the back of my mind,” Vick said. “Hopefully in the future, they’ll land some of these top quarterbacks that I get a chance to be around. ... So some of these top players across the country start paying attention to Virginia Tech and we bring Virginia Tech back to prominence, and that’s going to start with Coach Pry and his staff.

“I think they’ve got the right mindset. I’m excited about their season. I think we’ve got to give Coach Pry some time to grow and get familiar with his surroundings and the state of Virginia and then rock out from there.”

Twitter: @ByDavidTeel

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