Along with Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons, what other type of bird does Michael Vick represent and vice versa?
What does the official seal of Atlanta have to do with him?
First things first, should I call the Michael Vick situation a comeback? Um, no. I’d call it a comeback of epic proportions—a resurrection of sorts.
I didn’t say it was a self-resurrection. There’s only one man who can claim that distinction. While Vick may have been a “Black Jesus” type figure to some of his fans, his detractors spread the gospel of bad news about him.
Born in Newport News, Va., a city known as “Bad News”, Vick has recently brought good news as a representative of that community.
He recently got his first endorsement deal since he left prison. A worldwide joint with UNEQUAL Technologies—the company that makes his football pads—it nurses his image.
While he was nursing injuries, the company sent him specially made pads that worked wonders. Vick went on the record to say the pads helped his body absorb the shock from NFL hits.
The pads blend the company's technology with DuPont Kevlar—one of the world’s top shock absorbing materials. Some bullet proof vests contain high levels of Kevlar.
Vick absorbed the verbal bullets from his detractors like he was wearing Kevlar skin. He's been "Captain Kevlar" since he got a second chance.
Of course, America is the land of second chances. Some people are fortunate enough get third and fourth, etc. chances. For months, Vick has been making very good on his, and I'm proud of him as an American.
In the span of four months, he’s managed to resurrect an image that was left for dead by many in the United States. He’s far from the Patriots Tom Brady in terms of positive public perception, but he's heading in the right direction.
The Falcons perceived him to be the man to lead their franchise in the right direction and picked him No. 1 overall in the 2001 NFL draft. He became the first African-American quarterback to be selected as such.
He provided almost immediate dividends at the Falcons box office and on the field. Ticket sales increased and Vick was electrifying on the field.
In a league with a legendary past of running quarterbacks such as Frank Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young and Steve McNair, Vick was the best running quarterback anyone had seen in a long time—if not ever.
With the Falcons, Warrick Dunn joined him as the first quarterback/running back duo to each rush for over 1,000 yards. In six seasons, he led the Falcons to the playoffs twice.
He also paid dividends in corporate board rooms across the nation. During his career in Atlanta, Vick became a spokesperson for Nike, EA Sports, Coca-Cola, Powerade, Kraft, Rawlings, Hasbro and AirTran. His name rang bells throughout the States.
In August 2007, he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges of operating an illegal interstate dog fighting ring. NFL commissionner Roger Goodell had barred him from reporting to Falcons training camp. After his arraignment in July of 2007, Vick was also barred from leaving Virginia.
Some players including Clinton Portis came to his defense along with much of the African-American community throughout the Atlanta area, especially Dekalb County, home of the wealthiest African-Americans in the nation.
Gutsy Atlanta Falcons owner, Arthur Blanks, cut Vick and sought to recover a portion of his signing bonus. Blanks wanted $20 million of the $37 million bonus and an arbitrator agreed with him. The Falcons, it was ruled, were owed $19.97 million by Vick.
The arbitrator agreed Vick used the bonus money to pay for the dog fighting operation. Bad Newz Kennels were shut down, and Goodell kicked him out of the league in 2007.
Vick was suspended indefinitely from the NFL without pay. A year later, he filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He served 21 months in prison and three more in home confinement.
After being out of the NFL for about two years, he signed a one-year contract with the Eagles in August of 2009. The Eagles paid him $1.6 million—all unguaranteed greenbacks.
Tony Dungy, the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl, reached out to Vick and became a mentor. Dungy is a man of Jesus and has a reportedly thriving prison ministry.
Vick had another understanding NFL coach in his corner, Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid’s two sons had served time in jail on drug charges.
On March 9, 2010, Reid and the Eagles exercised their option for 2010 and Vick got a $1.5 million roster bonus. He became the starter after Kevin Kolb got hurt early in the season against the Green Bay Packers.
After spending more time in jail than some people who harm humans, Vick showed he was a better quarterback than he was before he went to prison. After a stellar comeback season, he started the 2011 Pro Bowl.
He played the first quarter and led his team to a 14-0 lead over the AFC. While the AFC's quarterbacks were busy turning the ball over, Vick didn't commit any. Early on, the NFC sealed the blowout.
Atlanta’s seal, mentioned at the start of this column, depicts a phoenix blowing out—rising—from the ashes. The word “resurgens” is inscribed across the top of the seal. Resurgens is Latin for “rise again”—presumably out of the ashes.
From history 101, I remember the city of Atlanta was burned by General Sherman during the Civil War and had to rise out of the ashes.
The phoenix is a mythical sacred firebird to pagans such as the Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians. It also has some symbolism tied to the American South, Atlanta in particular.
The bird’s eggs rise out of the fire and ashes from the self-igniting old phoenix to live as long as its old version—like Atlanta after General Sherman.
Vick’s career and his image have risen again. The Pro Bowl was played two weeks after MLK Jr. Day. Dr. King was a resident and pastor in Atlanta for many years. His dream is still alive in the risen ashes of Atlanta’s former favorite resident—Michael Vick.
Will Vick one day be judged by the content of his new character? Time will tell.