August 2007 were very dark days for professional quarterback Michael Vick, who at the time played for the Atlanta Falcons. Although he had earned millions of dollars as a professional athlete, his poor conduct in being involved with a dog-fighting ring with the Bad Newz Dog Kennels in Viriginia had now caught up with him.
Hours after pleading guilty to financing the gambling side of the dog-fighting ring, he was suspended indefinitely without pay by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Moreover, Falcons owner Arthur Blank decided to recover a portion of the signing bonus.
The case went to arbitration, and Vick was ordered to pay just over $19 million of his bonus back to the Falcons. In the wind-up, Vick was sentenced to 23 months in Leavenworth Correction Facility and had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Truly, Michael Vick's chickens had come home to roost, and he had no one to blame but himself for his behavior, which was "not only illegal, but also cruel and reprehensible," according to Roger Goodell.
As someone who understands what it is like to hit "rock bottom," the author of this article would have to opine that it would be a tragedy if the Michael Vick saga ended here. But thankfully because of the strong Christian beliefs of former NFL coach Tony Dungy, Vick's story did not end here.
Dungy began visiting Vick while he was incarcerated for his terrible crimes against dogs. With a two-year prison sentence looming over Michael Vick's head, the two men had a lot of time to talk about life.
"We talked about him growing up and having that side—that Christian background—but really getting to the NFL and feeling like he was his own guy. Somewhere in the course of all this, he realized that he had left that spiritual side,” Dungy said, recalling one of their first meetings in May of 2009.
Michael Vick also realized, through the help of Coach Dungy, that his life, his priorities, and his outlook would need to change if he was to ever see a football field ever again as more than just a spectator.
"Most people are going to be against him. He's got to understand that," Dungy said at the time.
Although it was an uphill battle, many people believe that through the guidance of Dungy, Michael Vick is a changed man today. Now the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick recently discussed how he got his priorities back into shape.
Vick said that during his incarceration he had a lot of time to think, and he made some very important decisions.
"I got back to my roots. The only thing I could do in prison was fall back on God. I wanted to do things right, that I didn't do the first time."
Vick says that today he has a lot of motivation to stay focused on the right path instead of the terrible path he was on before.
"The main thing is that I don't want to disappoint God," he said at last year's Super Bowl Breakfast in February 2010. "I don't want to disappoint my family, Tony or Roger (NFL commissioner Goodell). God has blessed with a second chance that is something I will value forever. I don't want to let Him down."
After he was reinstated in 2009, Vick admitted that his transition back to the NFL was tough. He credits a strict, disciplined regimen to getting him through it.
"I thought the transition would be easy, but it was a hard for me. I did things I never thought I would do, like studying and working by myself. I stayed close to my faith, constant in prayer and close to Tony's calls and texts."
Vick is still committed to being "a part of the solution rather than the problem" today. Although he realizes that some people will never forgive him for the barbaric actions of his past, he has remained true to his commitment and still visits youth in urban areas to advise on not making the same mistakes he did.
Even according to Philadelphia Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie, he is not just the quarterback for the team. As he stated when Vick was signed in 2009, his desire was for him to also bring about "social change in the area of animal cruelty."
So how should people of faith react to Michael Vick and his actions post-incarceration? We should do all we can to encourage him to continue to stay on the right path. We should pray for him that his story will be an example to others and will continue to promote better behavior in them.
Vick's desire is to now be a part of the solution, and we should support him on that.
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