Only two quarterbacks in NFL history have rushed for 1,000 yards in one season – Michael Vick who rushed for 1,039 yards with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, and Lamar Jackson (1,017 yards) who needs just 23 yards Thursday night to break Vick's record.
Now an analyst for FOX Sports, Vick was Jackson's favorite player growing up, and Vick has been a mentor to Jackson dating back to his college career at Louisville. Vick won't be at M&T Bank Stadium on Thursday, but he'll be watching, happy that Jackson is having a special season with a chance to reach the Super Bowl.
During a Tuesday telephone interview, Vick talked about the Ravens' quarterback and why he believes Jackson is ushering in a new era for NFL quarterbacks.
Q: What will your emotions be Thursday, with Lamar so close to breaking your record?
A: "It's a cool moment in sports, especially for Lamar and also for the Baltimore Ravens. It's something that everybody can be excited about. Breaking that record, it's something I can honestly say I didn't think I'd see for a long time. When Lamar was coming out of college, we had conversations. I used to tell him, 'Play your game, be you.' But I couldn't even foresee Lamar doing this so quickly. It shows if you're with the right teammates, the right coaches, the right organization, what can happen."
Q: How did your relationship with Lamar begin?
A: "I reached out to him because I liked his style. There's a quarterback coach in South Florida named Oliver Bozeman who I used to work with. He knew Lamar and some of his family. Oliver put me in contact with Lamar, and we just stayed in contact, built a relationship. It's cool to see Lamar having so much fun, so much success with his teammates. That's what the game is all about."
Q: You worked with Ravens Quarterback Coach James Urban when you played with the Philadelphia Eagles. What's your take on how the Ravens coaching staff has built the offensive system around Lamar?
"James is a very smart coach. He was with Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg in Philly, and they were about the West Coast system – timing and footwork. James has a sense of when to let the ball go, how quickly it should come out. He's teaching that to Lamar. (Ravens Offensive Coordinator) Greg Roman spent time with Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, and their offense was different and dynamic when Kaepernick burst on the scene. Then Roman had success with Tyrod (Taylor) in the same system. But now he gets a guy like Lamar, who's a phenomenal talent. You hook him up with Roman, a master of the run game. You put the fastest quarterback in the game, with that? Okay."
Q: Many teams could've drafted Lamar. But how important was it that Lamar ended up with a team that totally committed to his skill set?
A: "That was crucial. I brought this up on FOX a couple of months ago. Tyrod had a great relationship with Roman when he was in Buffalo. I came to Baltimore last year to do a sit-down interview with Lamar and I see Greg Roman, I see James Urban. I said, 'OK, I see what's happening here.' Now we all see it. If he had gone to a different place, they may have tried to throw Lamar into a different system. He could've done it, shown his scrambling ability when a play broke down. But it's different when you have a coach whose expertise is the run game. And (Head Coach) John Harbaugh is a coach who's going to insist that the defense is tight, that the whole ship stays air tight."
Q: When you rushed for 1,039 yards in 2006, the Falcons finished 7-9 and didn't make the playoffs. The Ravens are 11-2 and the No. 1 seed if the AFC. If the Ravens win a Super Bowl with Lamar in his first full season as the starter, do you think that will pave the way for more mobile quarterbacks, more black quarterbacks, to be given a chance to excel at the position from Pee Wee football all the way to the NFL?
"This is a new era of football. If Lamar Jackson wins a Super Bowl, you'll have so many kids wanting to be like Lamar Jackson. In fact, they already do. He's a role model on and off the field. Kids of all color want to be like Lamar. They want to run the football like Lamar. To me, Lamar is already validated. Cam Newton is already validated. Russell Wilson is validated, doing his thing. You see more and more quarterbacks pulling it down and running. It's part of the game. Aaron Rodgers pulls it down and runs. Josh Allen is pulling it down, running. It doesn't matter what you look like. Just do it. Do your thing. That's the best way to play the game. I played the way I played because it was the best way for me to be successful. My teammates knew I was willing to do whatever it took to move the chains. I see that in Lamar. I see that with all winners."
Q: Some people remain skeptical that Lamar can have a long, healthy career running the ball as much as he has. What's your take on "Is this style sustainable?''
A: "I'll be honest, I never spoke to Lamar about protecting himself. I don't mean that in a negative way, but I didn't want that to be the focal point of what he's thinking about. He'll protect himself his way. But I don't want him to worry about getting hurt. Play your game. Personally, I think he's going to be around for a long time. You're going to get some nicks in this game. Injuries happen. To every player. Some things you may be able to play through, some you may not. That's the sacrifice you make to play in the NFL. But bring everything you have to the table. Be the best version of himself. That's what he's doing."
Q: Is Lamar your pick for the MVP?
A: "Yes. Lamar's a fascinating player. You can't deny it. The game looks like it comes so easy to him, even though it's not easy. He's doing it the right way, and defensive coordinators have to figure out how to stop him. I don't give away game plans. Good luck with that."