If Michael Vick never takes another snap in the NFL, he is at peace with where he's been and where he's headed.
On a recent Wednesday morning, Vick wakes up at the same time as if he were heading to a football facility. Instead of preparing for meetings and practice, he takes his youngest daughter, London, to school.
"I had a great conversation with her in the car. These are the moments that I won't be able to have or recreate at some point in my life. I've been playing football for a long time, so I've had to travel away from my kids and my family. Now, I can be the dad that I want to be and that's more important than football," Vick said.
Vick now lives near Fort Lauderdale, Florida over 1,100 miles from the City of Brotherly Love, where he rejuvenated his playing career following a 21-month prison sentence for running an illegal dogfighting operation. Tonight at 9 PM, NFL Network presents a documentary about Vick on the latest episode of the series called, A Football Life. Vick understands that his story will always include the abhorrent abuse of dogs that resulted in his imprisonment. A Football Life doesn't shy away from that and focus on all of the on-field achievements, though there are plenty. The documentary features an interview with PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, who questioned the sincerity of Vick's remorse coming out of prison, saying he was only trying to save his football career. Vick took her words to heart.
"I was remorseful. I was praying. I did have empathy and I still have it to this day," Vick said. "Once I got my contract from Philadelphia and I started playing, I didn’t have to do the things that I did. I didn’t have to go to schools. I didn’t have to push certain laws to get passed to change animal rights and reframe positive rights for animal welfare. I didn’t have to do those things, but I felt like it was a commitment that I made for myself, not to anybody else."
The No. 1 overall pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2001 NFL Draft, Vick took the league by storm with his captivating athleticism and dynamic arm. He is the first and only quarterback in NFL history to run for 1,000 yards in a season. He owns the all-time record for most career rushing yards by a quarterback, surpassing Eagles great Randall Cunningham. In Atlanta, Vick handed the Green Bay Packers their first-ever home playoff defeat. He guided the Falcons to the 2004 NFC Championship Game, only to fall to the Eagles.
After missing the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to imprisonment, Vick signed with the Eagles in 2009 and took over as the starting quarterback in Week 2 of the 2010 season. He earned the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award after leading the Eagles to the NFC East title. That season, he posted a 100.2 quarterback rating, the third best in team history, and threw only six interceptions. In the memorable 2010 Monday night win at Washington, he threw for 333 yards and accounted for six total touchdowns. His Eagles career finished following the 2013 season ranked in the top seven in franchise history in passing yards, passing touchdowns, quarterback rating and completion percentage.
"I think that stuff (the dogfighting) will forever be a part of my story," Vick said. "I don’t want that to ever define me as an individual and I feel like the people who know me feel the same way. I wanted to really reiterate that I put my all into my career. I think the highlights show that, but football was just one aspect of it. In reality, you have to deal with the things that come along with it and you have to deal with those responsibilities and at one part of my career I didn’t. The good part about it was that I was able to come back having people support me."
One of those people is his wife, Kijafa, who had to keep their family together while he was locked up.
"For me it was tough, but she was way stronger than me in that situation," Vick said. "She might’ve broke down for 15-20 minutes on the ride to the prison, but once I got into the prison I broke down. But she got stronger, which made me stronger. There’s no way of showing my appreciation for her. ... She was the rock that got me through the process and we used to always have long conversations through our drive from Philadelphia to Virginia when I went back home to visit my family. She had the utmost belief in me and I always told her I just needed one more chance. If I get one more chance I can really show that I still got it, and that’s all I wanted. She believed in me. It’s funny we get to sit back and look back over the years at the progression that was made and I think she’s very proud of me where I’m at right now. That’s how I think on a more positive note."