Three years ago, Mike Vick was on top of the world. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback was living the dream as one of the highest paid players in the NFL and had many successful years of football ahead of him. He was playing for a legitimate playoff contender and the city of Atlanta was eating out of his hand. To top it all off, he was the focus of one of the best commercials in recent history.
I’m sure you remember seeing it: A scrawny little pip squeak gets strapped into a padded harness and goes for a ride on the “Michael Vick Experience.” He gets to feel what it’s like to dodge defensive ends, sprint past linebackers and flip over safeties.
Three years later, this commercial has become a reality: the life of Michael Vick has now become a figurative roller coaster. After reaching such great heights, he has now hit the lowest of the low. Serious jail time, bankruptcy, unemployment: these are the realities the once great Vick now faces.
Now that he is out of jail and done with his house arrest, Vick is looking to make his way back to the NFL. NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell has suspended Vick until the sixth week of the upcoming season, but there is the possibility he could be on the field sooner.
While the actual length of the suspension is still in question, the real quandary is which team (if any) will take a risk on Vick. There have been many teams with a reported interest, but every time a GM is approached about the issue, they steer clear. No organization is willing to take that kind of P.R. risk at this point.
There is someone, however, that has accepted Mike and he very well could be the key to the player’s future, on and off the field. That person is Tony Dungy.
Some might ask why one of the most respected men in the NFL would connect himself with a troubled person like Vick. That’s just who Tony is. A devout Christian, Dungy has always been about doing good. He has been a constant supporter of numerous clubs and organizations and his service has been recognized by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This situation is a perfect example of a man practicing what he preaches. Instead of seeing Vick as an immature delinquent who could be considered hazardous material, Dungy saw an opportunity to help a young man in need.
While Vick was in prison in Leavenworth, Dungy made a few visits to give the troubled quarterback some advice. Dungy talked to him about his faith and what he could be facing upon returning to society. He urged Vick to stay in touch and to keep him updated. Making the first of hopefully many good decisions, Vick continued communication with his new found mentor.
Now Vick is back in the real world and Dungy is right there to help him through. Recently, Dungy met with his protege, not to discuss his looming suspension or what he needs to do to train, but to talk about his family and how he is doing as a father. That’s something we need more of in the NFL — and in life.
For the next few weeks, the sporting world will be abuzz with rumors of possible teams for the formerly sensational Mike Vick. The Vikings, Jets and Seahawks remain his most likely destinations. However, even with his vast potential, Mike Vick will be seen as more a risk than a reward. Organizations fear the reaction of their fan base and the constant harassment of PETA; But if players like Ricky Williams, Onterrio Smith and Sebastian Janikowski can find work after their criminal activity, then Mike Vick deserves a shot to clear his name and move on with his life.
There is no doubt that what he did was wrong, but he has served his time and done everything necessary to return to the game. If anything, these teams need to take a page from Tony Dungy’s life playbook and give the man a chance. It’s the right thing to do.
Jake Welch is a sports writer for Rhombus. He recently learned that you can get away with anything in America — except organizing dog fights. Follow him on Twitter @jraywelch.
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