Inspirational Athletes: Mike Vick

If you do not know the name Michael Vick, then you're probably either a person who has been living under a rock or a really young sports fan who is sent here by God to show just how old the 90s babies really are. 

Born Michael Dwayne Vick, Michael Vick is a former NFL quarterback who took the football world by storm. Vick played 13 seasons in the NFL and is remembered for his tenure with the Atlanta Falcons and his comeback stint where he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. This might be controversial to say, given all the controversy that Vick was in, however, when one looks at his Vick’s life, Michael Vick is an inspirational figure. 

Vick was born in Newport News, Virginia as the second oldest of four children. Both his mother Brenda Vick and father Michael Boddie were teenagers (Brenda 16 and Michael 17) when they had Michael Vick. Although the pair worked tirelessly to support the family, the two still lived in the projects, a crime-ridden neighbourhood known as the Ridley Circle Homes. Boddie was away from the home majority of the time as he worked long hours at a shipyard as a sandblaster and spray-painter. Brenda was the one primarily responsible for raising the children and the children believed she was such a good mother that they chose to take on her last name. His father was not completely out of the picture, as he introduced Vick to football at an early age. This is when Michael Vick’s story becomes inspirational, well at least the first part of his story, when one considers what happens next.

Vick tore up the high school football scene. Known for his cannon arm and quick feet, Vick was successful at the two high schools he attended. He became a Warwick High School legend for his three years there. Vick’s football journey then took him to Virginia Tech. He Redshirted his freshman year then subsequently played two successful seasons at Virginia Tech. His 1999 freshman year was especially impressive. Vick led Virginia Tech’s football program to an 11-0 record before their bowl game loss to Florida State. Vick had an 180.4 passer rating and was third in Heisman Trophy voting.

Vick continued to add to his impressive resume when he was drafted 1st overall by the Atlanta Falcons, becoming the first ever African-American quarterback to be drafted first overall. The story gets even better for Vick. Michael Vick absolutely laid waste to the league in his time as an Atlanta Falcon. In his first full year as the starting quarterback in 2002, Vick was named a pro-bowler. This was in spite of his less than impressive wide receiver core that featured the likes of Brian Finneran, a 33-year-old Shawn Jefferson, and Trevor Gaylor. Fun Fact, none of those receivers ever eclipsed 1000 yards or more in a season with or without Vick. Vick became a pro bowler again in 2004 after coming back from injury and then subsequently became a pro bowler the following season. Then in 2006, Vick became the first quarterback to rush for 1000 yards and had his Falcons had a better record than 7-9 in the 2006 season, then Vick definitely could have been a 2006 pro bowler.

However, just as things were getting good for Michael Vick, things started to go sour. Contrary to popular belief, Vick was known as a respectful and polite kid. However, that is a far cry to what he became during his tenure as the Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback. Vick was in controversy after controversy. This included his “middle finger” towards Saints fans after the Falcons loss to the Saints during the 2006 season. Although controversies haunted Vick and his reputation, Vick’s play overshadowed his off-field antics. With that being said, in April 2007 an investigation on Vick’s cousin, Davon, led to the police finding a property owned by Vick that was used as a venue for dogfighting.

Michael Vick was indicted and after months of investigations, Vick pled guilty to his role in the Bad Newz Kennels dogfighting scandal. Vick was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. In addition to that Vick was also barred for the NFL (although was reinstated after 2 years), had to give back $20 million of his signing bonus, and his reputation was justifiably tarnished. This effectively left Vick in a bad way financially, with no income and numerous debts, along with previous bad spending habits, Vick had no choice but to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

With all of that, Vick could have very well have crumbled under the weight of his problems, however, Vick turned his life around. 

Mentored by legendary coach Tony Dungy, Vick began the path to redemption. Vick kept himself in shape and was released from prison after 18 months. Vick would eventually be given a 1 year/$1.6 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, with none of the money being guaranteed. There was also a second-year option worth $5 million in the second year. Vick made the most of his opportunity. In his first year with the Eagles during the 2009 season, Vick played as a backup sparingly but kept his reputation clean. Vick then got his career on track at the start of the 2010 season.

Then Eagles franchise quarterback Donavan McNabb was traded to the Redskins in the 2010 offseason and during week 1 of the 2010 regular season, Kevin Kolb was concussed. This led to Vick getting a shot and he made the most of it. After nearly leading the Eagles to a comeback in their 27-20 week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Vick proceeded to have a career year. During the 2010 season, Vick passed for 3018 yards (passer rating of 100.2), 21 touchdowns to 6 interceptions, rushed for 676 yards at 6.8 yards a carry, have 9 rushing touchdowns, and led the Eagles to the playoffs. 

In addition to that, Vick made the Pro Bowl for the fourth time, was named the NFL Comeback play of the year, and won the Bert Bell Award. In the subsequent years, Vick proceeded to pay off all of his debt and depending on whatever site you go to, Vick currently has an estimated net worth anywhere from $15-16 million.

There are a lot of inpiring things about Vick’s story. The facts that he escaped the projects, was able to provide for his family and became a prominent NFL figure is enough alone. However, for me, it was his story post his dog fighting scandal that is the most inspiring. What Michael Vick did was absolutely inexcusable and he needed to serve his time. However, we have to remember why jail was created in the first place. Surely if everyone who was a convict was beyond redemption, then the expensive measure of prison would not be created. The number one purpose for jails and prisons is because they are put in place to reform people.  

This is a concept that many people struggle with. This is not even to say that jails are the best way to reform bad people. This is not even to say that all bad people can be reformed or even should be released from jail. What is being said is that jail worked to reform Michael Vick when it did not work to reform many people and that should be recognized as battling adversity. 

According to a study done by the U.S Department of Justice, in 2005 almost 68% of the convicts who were released that year was eventually rearrested. Be those numbers, Michael Vick had a 2/3 chance of being in trouble again with the law. One could make the argument that these numbers could have even been accentuated by the fact that he definitely could have used the money from illegal activity. However, Vick battled financial hardships and the pressures that come with being disgraced to re-inspire those he previously let down. That is why Michael Vick is an inspirational athlete.