Mike Vick is not the most well-liked player who has ever played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the history of the franchise. While he might not be the only player to ever serve jail time, he is the only one, as far as I’m aware, who has ever been charged with animal cruelty.
Of course, it time with the Steelers was not planned, but berthed by necessity. Heading into the 2015 season, the team was still not yet confident in third-year quarterback Landry Jones to serve as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger. When Bruce Gradkowski was injured in the preseason, they felt the need to find somebody else, and Vick was about the only veteran arm available.
Unfortunately for him, he would have to start that season. He later acknowledged that he did not practice and prepare as hard as he should have, assuming that he would not play. And he struggled when he did, averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and one interception, and a whole bunch of passes that should have been intercepted.
Nobody was interested in Vick after that season. Nobody would have been interested in him in that season if it did not become necessary. But he did leave the game as one of the most enigmatic players of all time. He threw for over 20,000 yards and ran for another 6000. He had a 1000-yard rushing season.
But now that his playing career is over, he focuses on another power in his life: religion. He said that he turned to a Bible passage about a shepherd while he was serving a 23-month prison sentence for his role in running a dogfighting ring while he was still with the Atlanta Falcons.
It made him realize, he said, the importance in having mentors, leaders, examples. He believes that he knew right from wrong, but he split from knowing right and doing right when he was introduced to the ‘sport’ when he was nine years old.
The neighbors didn’t care, or participated, when some teenage acquaintances brought him to the events. The police didn’t intervene. “My perception changed because what I saw was not the same as what I heard. I fell into the trap of thinking it was cool”, he said.
After he left prison, he was barred from owning a dog while serving probation, which he had to explain to his daughters, who wanted a pet. But now, years later, he is able to own a dog again, and he advocates for animal rights.
He recently found himself in front of an assembly of students at Liberty University speaking on the subject, and using himself as a cautionary tale. He wants to try to be that example that he did not have in his life that helped him lose the path.
For some—for many, perhaps—he will never see redemption for what he did. And I’m sure he accepts that. He cannot control what he has done in the past, but he can affect how his actions shape the future, for himself, for his children, and for his community.