Look Who’s Out of the Doghouse

It was August 2007. The famous quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, otherwise known as Michael Vick, had just pleaded guilty to illegal dog-fighting charges, which would keep him in jail for almost two years. Vick, considered to be the most exciting player in the NFL, had already led the Falcons to two playoff appearances, and it seemed like he would continue his NFL success. Then the “Bad Newz Kennel” was found, and as Vick’s life went to shambles, he became one of the most-hated celebrities in all of sports.

No one knows how Vick’s time in prison was. I assume it was just as terrible as I think prison would be, especially for a celebrity. Apparently Vick was given no preferential treatment. He had to hire a Mexican gang to keep himself safe from the other inmates. People across America cracked jokes about his situation. The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, otherwise known as PETA, continued to tarnish Vick’s already-soiled image by criticizing him daily. People debated whether or not Vick’s promising career was already finished. But that’s not the end of the story.

Fast-forward to August 2009, when Vick was reinstated to the NFL. After being overlooked by a high majority of NFL teams, he signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, which included a team option for a second year. In 2009, the Eagles played Vick mostly out of special formations, but he barely got any snaps in the game. The year finished with Vick a mere afterthought in the minds of NFL fans.

Moving on to 2010, Vick was the No. 2 quarterback on the Philadelphia roster, backing up the inexperienced Kevin Kolb. Soon enough, Kolb got hurt, and Vick was thrust into the starting role in one of the toughest cities to play for. Throughout the country, people were expecting Vick to show that he had lost it all in prison and wouldn’t ever be the player he once was. Yet, he proved that he had somehow become even better. In week two against the Detroit Lions, Vick posted an efficient game where he threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

Coach Andy Reid then named him the starter for the next week, and he didn’t disappoint, leading the Eagles to another victory with almost 300 passing yards and three touchdowns. However, nothing compared to his game just last week against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. The lefty quarterback posted one of the best games in recent memory, as he threw for 333 yards, ran for another 80, and scored a whopping six touchdowns. The final score was 59–28 in favor of the Eagles, and it wasn’t even that close. And as I watched that game, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Man, this guy is a hero.”

In fact, Vick is a hero. He’s a hero to those who make mistakes in their lives and aren’t sure if they can’t get back up. You don’t see many people going from star to felon to star once again. If anything, stars get excused for their mistakes, such as Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis, who were both charged for felonies and worked out plea deals. Vick did his hard time, and now he’s back, right where he left off. He could have just faded into the sunset, accepted that he made a mistake, and cemented his legacy as wasted talent. But no, Vick worked hard not only to return to the NFL, but also to clean up his image, as he continues to do charity work and speak about the horrors of dog fighting.

Some may say that he does this because he has to, or that his act is all fake. Bad people cannot change, they all say. I’ve had enough of people putting him down, especially when he has done his time and has been given a second chance. Vick has suffered through things that people may not be able to even imagine. Yet he goes onto the field and gives it all every week now, and you will never hear a peep of complaint from him about the past.

He has accepted his punishment and is working to move on. Vick has done everything right in the media, specifically his relationship with Kolb and their roles on the team. He has repeatedly said that he is okay with any decision that Reid makes about the quarterback controversy, showing poise not only on the field, but also off. It seems that he accepts the blessings that have been given to him, and he’s there to take what he can get with his hard work and effort, and that is something to admire.

It isn’t every day that we can find such an inspiring story in sports, especially one that is this much of a roller-coaster ride. Star to prison to star once again? Usually that equation ends during prison. But not for Vick, as he shows us what he is really made of. I’m sure that there are millions of people out there that will never forgive him for what he has done. But contrary to popular belief, it’s time to start looking at Vick — not as a criminal, but as a role model.