ESPN concluded their two-part series detailing Michael Vick from boyhood to his retirement from the NFL in 2016.
Michael Vick has been one of the most polarizing players in the NFL since 2007. Even with the dogfighting situation, I do not believe you can tell the story of football without Michael Vick.
This documentary did a great job of showing why that is. From his downfall to his redemption and post-football life, it shows that when given a second chance, you can come out the other side a better person.
The dogfighting and dogfighting culture
The investigation started with Vick’s cousin being arrested for drugs and the intent to sell. The police searched Vick’s home in Surry, Virginia. This is where the police found numerous dogs in the backyard. Numerous training buildings and an infirmary were found in the back of Vick’s house.
Local animal control authorities said this ring was one of the biggest they have ever seen.
There were initial rumors of a dogfighting ring before the investigation started called Bad Newz Kennel, run by Vick. Michael Vick initially claimed to have no knowledge or responsibility as to what went on. Vick remained confident that nothing would happen to him and he had sort of cockiness to him that nothing will come out of it.
“Regardless of what I go through, people will still love me”
To them, they didn’t see dogfighting any different than horse racing or deer hunting. It was simply a sport for them. They even said that dogfighting was just another form of cockfighting.
Dogfighting was initially in the rural south but over time expanded to all states and all races and backgrounds. Quanis Phillips, Michael Vick’s childhood friend and co-founder of Bad Newz Kennel, claimed that people would come from Mexico and as far out as California.
Vick’s friends were being influenced and mentored by older white men who have a history in dogfighting and told them that any dog that doesn’t fight….. must be killed.
Quanis and the other people involved put down eight dogs simply for not fighting. These dogs were eventually uncovered and reburied out of respect for the dogs.
During the documentary, Michael Vick stated that he knew what was going on and that his competitiveness and love for dogs were so locked together that he couldn’t bring himself to put an end to it all.
Roger Goodell and Arthur blank were both lied to by Vick in order to prevent himself from going to prison. Coming from a ghetto childhood, his desire to keep his family from going back to the projects is what kept him from telling the truth to anyone.
When it came time for training camp, Goodell forced Michael Vick to stay far away from the Atlanta Falcons due to the number of protesters and backlash for his alleged role in dogfighting.
It soon became about race when people felt angered that he was being targeted because he was a successful black person. It was believed by some that people used the dogfighting allegations to mask their inner racism against Michael Vick. Some even called for Vick to get the death penalty.
At first, it seemed as if Michael Vick would see no consequences for his actions. The initial prosecutor wanted to take his time and not take into account the outrage from onlookers and protesters.
Gerald Poindexter was from the area and reluctant to bring charges to Vick. To mot, it seemed Vick’s success and fame would prevent him from getting charged.
This prompted the FBI to get involved once it became clear that nothing would come out from the state level.
Once the FBI found the eight dogs buried in Vicks backyard, a forensics veterinarian was able to determine that some dogs showed consistencies of being both hung and drowned. This is what ultimately determined charges would be brought.
Four people were involved, including Michael Vick. Vick’s three friends agreed to testify against him in order to have lesser sentences.
On August 20, 2007, after pleading not guilty at first, Vick ultimately agreed to plead guilty and was later handed a 23-month sentence for his role and to the severity in which the dogs were killed.
Normally, the sentence ranges from zero months to six months, and sometimes probation, however, his sentence was extended simply due to the severity.
While in prison, Michael Vick was forced to file for bankruptcy where he owed up to $50 million to creditors and nearly $30 million to the Atlanta Falcons.
He lost nearly all belongings in an attempt to repay his debt. Once he got out of prison, he had no money to his name and his bank accounts were in the negative.
Michael Vick reached out to Judy Smith in order to change public opinion about him. Smith was able to set up a meeting between Vick and the Humane Society to create a pathway to correct his mistakes and make him a better person.
After release, Michael Vick was forced to two months of house arrest and then had to work $10 an hour as a labor worker.
Reinstatement and Philadelphia Eagles
There was little belief that Vick would ever play football again due to the sheer hatred for his actions and the publics’ unwillingness to believe he’s changed. Vick appeared in a 60 Minutes interview and expressed his regrets and remorse for his actions and wants to right his wrongs.
It is very much fair to believe that Michael Vick wasn’t sorry for his actions but simply sorry that he got caught.
Hall of Fame head coach, Tony Dungy, went to bat for Vick and helped Goodell come to the conclusion that Michael Vick would be allowed to return.
His friend Donovan McNabb played a huge role in bringing Vick to Philadelphia. Andy Reid was accepting of the idea but was also aware that the team would take a hit and fall in the eyes of the public.
Michael Vick’s off-field efforts gradually changed how he was viewed in the public and showed he truly cared about changing and taking responsibility for what he did.
Donovan McNabb changed the course of Michael Vick’s career. He taught him how to prepare, changed his mentality and work ethic
When Vick arrived for training camp, he was overweight, slow, and simply out of shape and needed work.
Vicks 30th birthday party
Initially, Vick’s family wanted to have a private birthday party, nothing too major. However, Vick wanted to go to a nightclub to celebrate.
Even though Michael Vick and Quanis Phillips were not supposed to be in contact, Phillips showed up and a shooting occurred. Phillips was shot and had to be admitted into the hospital. The two haven’t seen each other since.
Prior to the 2010 season, the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins and this moved Michael Vick to the back-up role to Kevin Kolb.
Week 1 saw Kevin Kolb get injured and thus, the Michael Vick experience in Philadelphia took off.
As a starter, Michael Vick led the Eagles to eight wins on the season, including the Monday night massacre against Washington where Vick had the best night of his career.
Michael Vick ended the season passing for over 3,000 yards, Passing for over 60%, 21 passing touchdowns (all three highest in his career to that point), and throwing only six interceptions.
2011 season and onward
While having a quarterback like Michael Vick, injures will come and they will come often. Naturally, running quarterbacks are smaller and the number of hits taken has a much greater effect on the longevity of their career.
2011 saw Vick begin the twilight stages of his career as injures took over an affected his future in Philadelphia.
2014 Vick was signed by the New York Jets. 2015 and his final season, Vick was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers and retired after the 2015 season.
Michael Vick made a guest appearance for the Atlanta Falcons during the final game played in the Georgia Dome when the Atlanta Falcons hosted Green Bay in the 2017 NFC Championship Game.
Atlanta Falcons after Michael Vick
While Michael Vick was in prison, the Atlanta Falcons officially moved on from the Michael Vick experience by drafting quarterback Matt Ryan out of Boston College. Outside of Arthur Blank, Matt Ryan is the final connection the Atlanta Falcons currently have to the Michael Vick era.
If Michael Vick doesn’t have any involvement in the dogfighting or has a firm hold on his social life and inner circle, then the Falcons miss out on Matt Ryan and a true franchise quarterback. Maybe Vicks frustrations with fans force him to leave in 2007 and we draft Matt Ryan anyways. However, After Matthew Stafford in 2009, the NFL went a long time without true franchise quarterbacks, so the Falcons would be stuck in a revolving door of quarterbacks and maybe this odd scenario means the Falcons miss out on Julio Jones too, but probably not.