Things were different the last time Michael Vick started an NFL game as a quarterback. George W. Bush was still the President of the United States. In fact, Barack Obama hadn’t even announced his candidacy yet. Twitter had just launched and was not yet popular and Justin Bieber was an unknown 12-year old. Proof positive that not all change is good.
Since starting for the Atlanta Falcons on December 31, 2006 in Philadelphia, Vick has been through a tumultuous ride. He was charged for his role in the Bad Newz Kennels dog fighting ring and pleaded guilty to federal charges. Vick then failed a drug test before his sentencing. The fallen star served 19 months of a 23 month sentence, finishing the term under home confinement. Vick dealt with numerous financial difficulties as a result, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
After a return to the NFL in the backup role last year, Vick attempted only 13 passes and 24 rushes. It seemed it would be a long wait to get another chance guiding an NFL offense, if that opportunity even came along. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen this early,” Vick said. “As a backup, you kind of a get into a mode of thinking that you’re not going to play even though you just have to be prepared for whatever happens.”
After an injury to Kevin Kolb in the season opener, Vick took the reins and nearly guided the Eagles back from a 17-point deficit, falling to the Packers 27-20. The second-year Eagle threw for 175 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-24 passing, while picking up 103 rushing yards on 11 carries. “I think last week kind of broke the ice for me as far as getting the jitters out and going out there and playing when the game counted and it was on the line, and being out there full time,” said Vick. “I’m not too nervous, ready to get going, ready to get out there and play.”
Vick got to do just that yesterday, leading the Eagles to a 35-32 win over the Lions in Detroit, completing 21-of-34 passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was Vick’s first victory as a starter in 1,379 days going back to a 17-6 win at Tampa Bay on December 10, 2006. “It’s just great to have this feeling that we won the game and I made great contributions,” he said.
After the win, Vick admitted he had been looking forward to the moment he’d once again start a game as an NFL quarterback for a long time. “Oh man, I think about it all the time, I thought about it this morning on the bus ride over. You know, it’s been a long road for me, it’s been tough,” Vick said.
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to disagree that he’s been through a lot. Vick’s also willing to admit that it was all his own doing. “Throughout it all I had to be resilient, you know I had to overcome a lot of adversity, you know, a lot of self-inflicted wounds, things that I caused myself,” said Vick.
The three-time Pro Bowler’s teammates have had a front row seat to the resurrection of his career and praise him as an ideal teammate. “It just shows the courage, and how much he’s a strong guy,” said wide receiver DeSean Jackson. “You know, when everyone doubted him and said he wasn’t going be able to do this and do that he still kept his head to the sky and has just been able to go out there and prove everybody wrong.”
One of the biggest questions onlookers have had over the last two years is whether or not Vick had truly matured and become remorseful or was just saying what he had to say to get a second chance. So far, head coach Andy Reid is happy with his attitude and work ethic. “I was very proud of him,” Reid said. “It’s a true testament if you work hard and keep your nose clean, good things can happen.”
The 30-year old continues to say the right things and claims he’s put his focus on family and football, but nobody will be able to say for sure until several years have gone by and he’s proved it with his continued actions on and off the field.
In the mean time, Vick thinks he’s learned his lessons in football and in the real world, “You’ve just got to keep fighting, man, that’s just the game of life, you’ve got to keep fighting you’ve got to keep believing and you’ve got to understand and realize what’s most important. I think I know that now.”
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