NFL Under the Helmet Interview: IVERSON – ‚Football is the best‘
That’s right. Before he turned the NBA on its head, the 26-year-old Iverson was a football hero. In fact, if it wasn’t for his mother pushing him to a sport with slightly less contact, Iverson might be throwing touchdown passes for the Philadelphia Eagles instead of throwing down baskets for the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson, who grew up playing against Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, sat down with Under the Helmet to talk about his glory days in football.
Former Virginia all-state quarterback Allen Iverson does a fancier kind of passing for the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers these days.
(Dec. 28, 2001) — The state of Virginia has produced some great quarterbacks in recent years, from Aaron Brooks to Michael Vick to … Allen Iverson?
That’s right. Before he turned the NBA on its head, the 26-year-old Iverson was a football hero. In fact, if it wasn’t for his mother pushing him to a sport with slightly less contact, Iverson might be throwing touchdown passes for the Philadelphia Eagles instead of throwing down baskets for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Iverson, who grew up playing against Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, sat down with Under the Helmet to talk about his glory days in football:
NFL Under the Helmet: What were Friday nights like as a kid in Newport News, Virginia?
AI: Talking the football part of it? Whenever we were down in the stadium, there was a war going on. That was it. For me, that was my life.
NFLUTH: Do you love football?
AI: Football is like my favorite sport. My mom wanted me to play basketball. I came home from school one day and she told me I was going to basketball practice and I cried all the way out the door. I said I didn’t want to play basketball. I felt basketball was soft. Now any little injuries I get here and there now, I’m fine. I never wanted to play basketball. I always wanted to be a football player. Then there’s certain things that happened in my life with my recruiting and everything. It didn’t go that way. Then I had to choose basketball.
NFLUTH: You played with some great football players in Virginia. Where did you rank among these guys?
AI: I was the best. They’ll tell you. There ain’t no secret to it. You can ask anybody from Hampton or Newport News. During the time I was playing QB, I was the one everybody was chasing. I didn’t play with Ronald Curry or Mike Vick. They were younger than me. But I went head-to-head against Aaron Brooks. That was my man, anyway. Growing up we played AAU with each other since we were like 13 years old, all the way up till we got into high school basketball and football. So when we played them in football or basketball, it was always fun because that was my man.
NFLUTH: Tell us about the time you and Aaron Brooks both had monster passing games against each other.
AI: I’ll never forget it. It was in Newport News, Ty Stadium, and it was a war. He was doing something. Then every time he had to do something, I’d come back. Then I’d do something and he’d come back. It was crazy. I think that was like one of the best games that he had in high school. He had a lot of great games, but I think he threw for like 300 yards.
NFLUTH: Did you ever think he was being overshadowed?
AI: I really didn’t feel that way, because I was in Hampton and he was in Newport News. I grew up in Newport News with him. But Gary Moore took me to Hampton. Kind of keep me out of trouble and steer me in the right direction because I wasn’t doing all the things that it took for me to get to this point right now, when I was in Newport News. So that’s what kind of made it that rivalry … So all my friends couldn’t always look forward to me playing against Aaron. I was kind of like the enemy then because I was playing at Hampton.
NFLUTH: How happy are you for Aaron?
AI: Sometimes when I watch him play I kind of get goose bumps, because I always knew what type of player he was. I always knew what type of gun he had. He had like the strongest arm. It was even stronger with baseball. People don’t remember he used to pitch. He used to be real crazy in baseball. But he was always talented. I felt like he could’ve made it in football or basketball. It’s just crazy watching him on TV, seeing him do his thing. And everybody would be like, „Man, that boy Aaron Brooks is good.“ I’d be like, „Man, that’s Newport News, man.“ I’ve been saying that for years. I already knew that this was going to happen. All he needed was the opportunity, and it was kind of hard for him being in Green Bay and playing behind Brett Favre. He would’ve never had a chance to really get on the field and showcase his talent. So I was real happy when he got traded to the Saints. I knew he was going to take over that job.
NFLUTH: And Michael Vick?
AI: Mike just came out of nowhere. I don’t even remember Mike growing up. I don’t even remember him as a little kid. I didn’t hear about him in the rec league or anything like that. I heard about Mike, I think a little bit, his senior year. But I never saw him play. Then I saw him play in college and I was like, „Yeah, he’s from Newport News.“
NFLUTH: When you watching these guys now, do you wish you were still playing football?
AI: I always wish I still played football. When I was in college playing basketball at Georgetown and I used to go to practice, seeing the guys running the football at practice. They were like Division III, something like that. I used to have tears in my eyes just looking at them. Now when I tell my teammates that I was better in football than I am in basketball, they’re like, „Man, I don’t believe that.“ It’s just hard to believe because I’ve been the MVP in this game. But I know in my heart that I was a better football player. But it made me feel good to see those guys out there doing some of the same things that I did on the football field; and I just root for them so much. I’m a Cowboys fan but I always go for the Saints.
NFLUTH: How would you compare football to basketball?
AI: I think football made me tough. It gave me a lot of the heart that I have because I was always small. The guys were always bigger than me. Guys would always take a lot of shots at me, try to hurt me. The thing that kept me from getting hurt was not getting hit. Not getting a direct hit on me. So I didn’t let people really get a chance to size me up. Football is just so competitive. Every down is important, regardless of what position you play on the field. Even if you’re not involved in the play. It’s important for you to do your job. It’s similar to basketball in the same way. Every possession counts. I think they’re the two greatest sports in the world. I just think football is the best.