In 2007 authorities raided a Virginia property of Michael Vick’s in connection with drug activity of one of his family members. There they discovered a scene which many will always remember and associate Michael Vick with.
Over 70 dogs, some showing signs of mistreatment and visible injuries were discovered in Vick’s 15-acre Surry County property, due to the quarterback’s heavy involvement in a dog fighting ring in his hometown of Newport News.
Bad Newz Kennels was an operation entirely bankrolled by Vick, or more accurately, the $20 million signing bonus given to him by the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite personally assuring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of his lack of involvement, the FBI ascertained that Vick was not only financing the operation, but also took an active role in killing dogs, through either electrocution, hanging or drowning.
On December 10th 2007 Vick was given a 23 month prison sentence for financing the dog fighting ring, and subsequently lying to investigators about it.
He was also, obviously, suspended from the NFL and had to pay the Atlanta Falcons back $19.97 million of his signing bonus.
For a man who once had the city of Atlanta and every defensive player in the NFL at his feet, now all Vick had at his feet were the tiny dimensions of a concrete cell in Leavenworth, and the only contact with football he had was advising fellow inmates on their fantasy decisions.
Upon his release in 2009 he wanted to play again, and some may argue that being officially bankrupt, needed to play again.
That chance came in August when he signed a two year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Initially backing up Donovan McNabb, who he had idolised since high school and was in fact the one who suggested taking a chance on him to the then coach of the Eagles Andy Reid, Vick got his chance to start in 2010 after McNabb was traded to the Washington Redskins and the replacement starter Kevin Colb was sidelined with a concussion.
Vick performed well in Colb’s absence and cemented his return to high class football with a Week 10 blowout of, none other than the Washington Redskins, against whom he threw for 4 touchdowns and rushed for a further 2 scores.
Assumably to the sure delight of his former cellmates, he scored a record 40 fantasy football points… in the first half of the game.
In another game later that season against another set of division rivals, the New York Giants, Vick staged one of the greatest comebacks of NFL history, overcoming a 21 point deficit in the last quarter, scoring 3 touchdowns to set the stage for the famous DeSean Jackson, last second, winning punt return.
At the end of that season, Vick was selected to his fourth career Pro Bowl and named the NFL Comeback Player Of The Year by the Associated Press and Sporting News.
Yeah, but… the dogs.
“It seems like you are glossing over the dogs, Chris.” I get it. I do, believe me. Mike Vick fought dogs against each other. He abused dogs. He killed dogs. Yes.
And to many, many people his stats and awards will never mitigate those facts. But, since his release from prison he has, and continues, to show remorse for his actions, as well as actively participating in raising awareness of animal cruelty through unpaid charity work.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say that his case was “instrumental in bringing about critical advancements in our tools and our ability to further curb dog fighting.”
The Humane Society say of Vick on their website that he is “supportive of our Pets for Life program to end dog fighting and helps spread the message through his public appearances”.
He has even lobbied Congress to pass the Animal Fighting Spectator Act and after his most recent move to Pittsburgh he helped lobby for a bill that would give police more authority to rescue pets trapped in hot cars.
To many Michael Vick is redeemed. To others, he never can be.
To some, his past crimes are simply a product of growing up in “Bad News”.
To a few, he will forever be one of the most revolutionary quarterbacks to have ever played the position.
Regardless of how you think of Michael Vick, you can be sure that there will be others who think of him completely differently.
Welcome to the Michael Vick Experience.
Chris Milner aka “Proper Football” is co-host of the Same Level Fantasy Football podcast, a former Washington D.C. resident and Redskins fan (for his sins) he is a self styled fantasy football expert having won his league one time. He is also clearly a comedian.. Follow him on Twitter
@chrismilner or listen to the pod @samelevel #HTTR