PHILADELPHIA - Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III grew up admiring Michael Vick.
While playing for Copperas Grove High School (Texas), he used to try to emulate the exciting style that Michael Vick was using for the Atlanta Falcons at the time.
The mentor and the student will be on the same field tonight, when Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles open their first season under coach Chip Kelly by facing the Redskins at FedEx Field, in Landover, Md.
"He was a lot of fun to watch," Griffin said in a phone interview last week. "Not just running the ball, but also throwing the ball. (Vick) paves the way for a lot of quarterbacks like myself. You always have a lot of respect for the guy. He's been through a lot in his life and he's come a long way to still be a starting quarterback in the NFL."
Griffin and other young quarterbacks such as San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, Carolina's Cam Newton and Seattle's Russell Wilson are the next generation of players who use their versatility to their advantage with read-option offenses.
All are adept at exploiting opposing defenses with the arm and legs, just the way Vick has done throughout his NFL career.
"To hear players like (Griffin) mention me, it means a lot," Vick said last week. "I'm a big fan of his, just like he's a fan of mine. It's great that you have guys that respect what you do. I like the way he plays the game, the desire he brings, his intensity, his heart, the way he carries himself with his teammates. You can tell everybody in the organization likes him, and that's the type of character you have to have as a quarterback in this league."
In addition to their arm strength and running ability, both players are the unquestioned leaders of their teams.
Griffin won his teammates last season when he insisted on playing late in the year despite a knee injury that eventually required offseason reconstructive surgery.
If anyone questioned Vick's status in the Eagles' locker room hierarchy, it was answered during this preseason. He was the one who galvanized the locker room when the video surfaced showing wide receiver Riley Cooper uttering a racist slur during a Kenny Chesney concert over the summer.
Yet both quarterbacks have a lot to prove this season.
Griffin, 23, sat out the entire preseason while recovering from his knee surgery. The Eagles and the entire league are wondering if the layoff will affect his performance, especially early in the season.
"I think he's ready right now," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said in a phone interview last week. "The only way I would start a quarterback is if he was ready to go."
The Eagles' defense expects Griffin to hit the ground running - and throwing - tonight.
Despite his lack of preseason playing time, the Eagles prepared as if they are about to face the fast, strong, confident quarterback who led the Redskins to the NFC East championship last season and into the playoffs.
Griffin delivered a spectacular performance in the Eagles' last visit to FedEx Field. He completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns - one shy of the all-time record against the Eagles - and compiled a perfect quarterback efficiency rating of 158.3 in a 31-6 victory last Oct. 18.
"He's one of the top quarterbacks in the league," new Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis said last week. "We are preparing for a healthy RG3 and all that comes with it."
Vick hopes to avoid the injuries that have plagued him the last few seasons and lead the Eagles to the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season.
Kelly took a chance on Vick by convincing him to restructure his contract and stay with the Eagles for at least one more season, then showed more confidence in him by choosing Vick to be the starting quarterback ahead of Nick Foles.
Vick, 33, is intent on rewarding Kelly's faith in him.
"This is what I came back for," Vick said last week. "I'm elated to have the opportunity to play for this team and for coach Kelly. "It's fun playing in this offense because I control everything. I'm the head that controls the body."
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