I remember when I was a freshman in college, my friend Erin, who went to Virginia Tech and I met back in our hometown that first spring break. We rode around in her little blue Toyota pick-up, ate fast food, went to parties, did what 18 and 19 year olds did. And we talked about sports. Specifically, we talked about how awesome Maryland basketball was (it was only two years later that we won the national championship) and how Virginia Tech was an awesome football program. Erin went on and on about how this guy, Michael Vick, was one of the most dynamic players ever to grace the Blacksburg campus. Michael Vick, hadn’t heard of him. A few years later, we would all be introduced to Marcus, his younger brother. Both stellar athletes (did you know that Michael was drafted by the Rockies despite not playing baseball in college?).
So fast forward, Michael Vick is drafted by the Falcons, going first overall, the first time for an African American football player. Michael Vick becomes the star QB of the Atlanta Falcons. He was a pro-bowler, fast-footed, strong armed and strong willed leader of the team.
Fast forward to 2007 when Vick was convicted of felony charges regarding illegal dog-fighting and gambling. He plead guilty to the federal charges, landing him in a penitentiary for almost two years. The Falcons recovered most of his signing bonus for his 2004 contract, and Vick lost all his endorsements. He tried to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Things were falling apart in a big way for Vick. He became a pariah.
The Falcons tried numerous times to trade him. After those failed, he was released. He was mentored by Tony Dungy. Donovan McNabb was integral in getting him signed to the Eagles roster last year. He has since become a productive member of the Philadephia community, given to numerous dog care facility charities and has shown a great deal of remorse. He is now, though getting up there in the years, again a respectable NFL player again. And he must feel redeemed in some respect that he made his way back.
Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a total animal lover. I mean, my dog Henry is practically my child and I could not imagine what kind of monster would endorse and gamble on and run dog fighting operations. I think it is disgusting. BUT do you know how many NFL players break the law? Do you know how many of them shoot and kill and assault and rape PEOPLE? Do you know how many of them get the kind of attention and scarlet A that Vick did? Not many. We hear about this and that, and we chalk it up to their bad ass image. They might get suspended for half a season or a whole season, but no one remembers or cares after that what it was they did. What Vick did was awful in a way I can’t even articulate, but he did his time (unlike a lot of other celebrity criminals), is remorseful, and is trying his best to renew his image. I applaud those involved for giving him a fighting chance, a second chance to do what he was meant to do in this life…play football. He is now part of an elite program, and while he’s still a second string, he had some big plays last year and will likely split some time with Kolb this season.
I guess what they say is true, the farther you fall, the more room you have to rise again.
I hope this message of fresh beginnings brings you a happy, shiny new start of the NFL season!