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Similarities Between Jackson, Vick Valid Save For One Thing

It only took 14 games into his second season for Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to grab a piece of professional football history.

On a five-yard run in the first quarter of Thursday’s win over the New York Jets, Jackson became the NFL’s single-season rushing leader for a quarterback.

Jackson has run for 1,103 yards. That makes him the first Ravens rusher to run for more than 1,000 yards in five years.

In addition, his current total – with two regular season games to play – would place Jackson in the top 10 of single season totals in franchise history.

Jackson, who also leads the league in touchdown passes, is having the kind of year that inspires hope for the future – immediate and distant.

It also leads to inevitable parallels to players of the past. Jackson’s flair and daring have drawn comparisons to former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Vick, who held the single-season mark until last week, was Lamar Jackson before there was a Lamar Jackson. Vick, like Jackson, had a spindly build with a strong arm and the ability to run away from defenders.

Jackson has said that Vick was his favorite player growing up. Vick, a 13-year NFL veteran, has been in contact with Jackson and saluted him after Jackson broke his mark.

There are, of course, distinctions between the two. Jackson is right-handed, while Vick threw with his left hand. Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, while Vick’s best finish was third.

There is another major difference between the two. Jackson has never been associated with any sort of scandal, while Vick’s name is among the most notorious in recent sports history.

Vick was convicted 12 years ago of participating in illegal dog fighting and killing dogs, as well as being a part of illegal gambling.

He served 18 months in a federal prison and returned to football with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.

Vick was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year in 2010 and received a six-year, $100 million contract from the Eagles, becoming an anti-hero of sorts to many.

Since his release from prison and return to football, Vick has lent his support to legislation that would give police officers the power to break into cars to rescue dogs and cats as well as make it illegal to attend organized animal fights.  

However, Vick has earned the everlasting scorn of animal rights enthusiasts who have argued that his conduct should have disqualified him from ever getting back into the game.  

Indeed, Vick, who was selected to the Pro Bowl all-star game four times as a player, was recently tapped by the league to be an honorary captain in this year’s game.

That move drew a Change.org petition against his Pro Bowl designation, drawing nearly 600-thousand signatures seeking to have him removed.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected the petition, saying Vick made a mistake and quote has been accountable for it unquote.

Because of their styles and their talents, Lamar Jackson will likely forever be linked to Michael Vick. One can only hope that Jackson learns all the lessons he can from Vick, including those off the field.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.