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Michael Vick’s Career Marred by Dog Fighting Scandal, But His Is a True Story of Redemption

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The Contentious Career of Michael Vick
Michael Vick was the top pick by the Atlanta Falcons and the No. 1 pick overall in the NFL Draft 2001 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, April 21, 2001 (Gabe Palacio/Getty Images)

 

On the eve of this year’s Super Bowl, Michael Vick announced his retirement. The timing was notable given his Atlanta Falcons replacement, Matt Ryan, was preparing to play in the big game.

Vick played 13 seasons as an NFL quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, and finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Busting into the league in 2001, Vick was taken as the No. 1 pick by the Atlanta Falcons (the first African-American quarterback ever chosen first in the draft). Vick was highly touted for his speed and running-back-like agility; reportedly, Vick has been clocked running a 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds, the fastest of any NFL QB in history. Though plagued by injury throughout his career, he was a four-time Pro Bowler and managed exceptional seasons such as 2002, when he broke a then-record for most rushing yards as a QB; and 2004, when he went 11-4, with 14 TD passes.

Michael Vick's Contentious Career
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (right) arrives at federal court with attorney Billy Martin (right) August 27, 2007, in Richmond, Virginia. Vick pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge (Steve Helber-Pool/Getty Images)

 

But Vick’s promising career would ground to a halt in August 2007, when he’d plead guilty to federal charges for his connection to a dog-fighting ring. (He’d not only been the money man, but also promotion and facilitating the sport, which pits dogs against one another in fights to the death.) With the public outcry from fans and animal rights groups deafening, Vick was sentenced to prison that December, getting a harsher sentence than two co-defendants because he lied to a judge. He wouldn’t see the outside of a prison cell until May 2009. (Interestingly, while Vick sat in jail, the Falcons ended up drafting Matt Ryan, who would go on to become the team’s star quarterback—and even despite that Super Bowl loss, this year’s runaway MVP.)

All of that could’ve easily derailed Vick’s career, but miraculously, he made a major comeback. Having been released by the Falcons in ’09, he signed with the Eagles and soon found himself back to form and winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2010.

Since then, Vick has worked hard to help end dog fighting, even being referred to as an “animal rights activist” by some. And although every fan may not forgive him, his is unequivocally a story of redemption.

To get to know the personal side of Vick, read the first-person essay Vick penned for the Players’ Tribune here. Below, take a look at his incredible highlight reel on the field.

 

—RealClearLife Staff