In Spite Of His Past, Vick Has a Chance to Do Great Things

Mike LewisContributor IAugust 15, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 14: Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles speaks at a press conference at the NovaCare Complex on August 14, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vick signed a one-year contract, with a second year option, with the Eagles.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Eagles fans everywhere reacted to the most surprising and controversial signing of the Andy Reid era on Thursday with emotions ranging from disgust to excitement.  The Eagles, a team that has long prided itself in character, had signed Michael Vick.

Those in opposition to this signing have spoken out loudly against it, but there are many who support the decision. There is no disputing that what Vick did was atrocious. He deserved to be punished severely, and he was. He spent two years in prison, away from his fiancé, his mother, and his children.

As much as he deserved to be punished, he deserves a second chance. The Eagles are giving him one, and they may be the perfect team to do it.

They have a proven veteran quarterback in Donovan McNabb who fully supports and even lobbied for Vick. This gives Vick a mentor and avoids any legitimate quarterback controversy. They are a team with a coach who, in spite of his flaws, can draw up creative plays and utilize athleticism like few others.  Vick will have an immediate opportunity to make an impact on the field. Perhaps most importantly, they are an organization that has a great reputation as a positive influence in the community. Vick has an opportunity to add to that by speaking out against animal cruelty. As a football player and as a man who made horrible mistakes, he has the opportunity to get through to people who many others can’t reach.

So far, he appears to be on the right path. The Humane Society, Tony Dungy, Roger Goodell, Andy Reid, and Donovan McNabb are among his supporters. Dungy, a man who is known for his integrity and morality, has been serving as a mentor to Vick.

“I really got the sense that he wanted to do some great things,” said Dungy, “he wanted to be a positive role model for young people, and he wanted to give back to his family.” The fact that a man of Dungy’s ethos is supporting Vick speaks volumes. It is unlikely that Dungy would risk his reputation, which he has spent his entire life building, unless he really believed it was the right thing to do.  

Vick said all the right things at his press conference, suggesting that his actions will speak much louder than his words. But it is encouraging that he seems to understand what he has to do.

He said he plans on working proactively to be a positive influence in the community. He accepted responsibility and showed remorse, saying “I was wrong for what I did. Everything that happened at that point and time in my life was wrong and unnecessary.”

From a football standpoint, the signing makes a lot of sense. There is no denying that Vick is a gifted athlete. Once considered among the NFL’s most exciting players, he gives the Eagles another weapon on offense. He may be the ultimate fit for the new wildcat formation that is sweeping the NFL. He still needs to get into game shape and show that he has maintained his skills. If he has, he will be a thrill to watch in the Eagle’s offense.

If he fails to live up to what he promises, on or off the field, the Eagles can simply cut him because none of his two-year contract is guaranteed.

“There's no third chances and we know that. If it isn't fulfilled the way we expect it to be, then it will be the end,” said owner Jeffery Lurie.

The first year is worth $1.6 million and the second year is a club option worth $5.2 million.

Lurie, a man who prides himself on character, had to do some “soul-searching” before signing Vick. He was hard to convince, saying "I needed to see a lot of self-hatred in order to approve this.” Ultimately, he saw the potential for good, saying “After multiple conversations, I felt more open to giving a human being a second chance, who possibly could become a socially active NFL player who actually could do great things off the field."

Vick has plenty of incentive to deliver on his promises. He knows this is his last opportunity. His career, his legacy, and his family name are at stake. His family may be his biggest motivation.

“I can’t explain how deeply hurt and how sorry I was once everything went down and I had to explain to my three kids what had happened, what had transpired, and it was because of daddy’s faults,” said Vick, “That was the toughest thing. I asked them for a second chance to be a better father, to do the right things and to show them the way and how things are supposed to be done.”

Vick seems to have a new perspective after going to prison.

“Once I went to prison I had plenty of time to think about what I did. I’ve seen people’s reactions and I’ve been to that point that I never really cared. I won’t say I didn’t care, but I never thought about it,” said Vick. “Now I understand people care about their animals. They care about their health, their welfare, the protection of animals and now I do.”

If he has grown as much as he claims to have, the possibilities are endless. Not only can Vick potentially become a star on the field once again, he has a chance to make his life a powerful story of redemption. No matter what he does, Vick will have to live with what he has done. If his promises are empty, those horrific acts will be his legacy. Still, if he can use his presence in Philadelphia and on the national stage to stop young people from going down the wrong path, maybe the focus will shift to what he is doing.