Michael Vick’s next chapter includes forgiving himself and guiding young athletes
The retired QB has started sports academies and is pushing his brand V7
A normal day in the life of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is spent with family, maybe indulging in some golf and during this time of year taking in some NBA playoff games.
“I wake up and I try to handle all my business by 2 o’clock. I’m golfing from 3 to 5, maybe practicing some short game, trying to get better as a golfer,” Vick said. “Then come home and spend time with my kids if I don’t go to pick them up around 3:30, and that night I’m trying to find the best TV show I can find. Right now it’s the playoffs, though.”
He was rooting for the Indiana Pacers, who were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of this postseason.
Vick announced his retirement in February after spending 13 seasons in the NFL, which included times filled with controversy, a prison sentence, a second chance and acts of remorse that involved advocating for animals.
April 30 marked the beginning of the postretirement Vick era. He’s turned his sights to the next chapter: guiding young athletes. Teaming up with the National Playmakers Academy (NPA), he launched the V7 Elite Playmakers Showcase Series, a premier sports camp in the South and East geared toward young athletes ranging from fifth- to 12th-graders.
The showcase provides an interactive camp setting where the kids will receive a combination of instruction from elite college and professional coaches and athletes, have their performances evaluated by college coaches by livestreaming, access to exclusive V7 gear (Vick’s official clothing line) and competition among elite talent. V7 Elite Playmakers Showcase Series kicked off its multicity tour Sunday at Tennessee State University in Nashville.
Vick’s next chapter represents his road to healing, including forgiving himself after serving 18 months in federal prison following a guilty plea to dogfighting conspiracy on Aug. 27, 2007.
On April 25, 2007, police raided his Virginia property and found several neglected pit bulls and evidence of dogfighting. By Aug. 24, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had suspended Vick indefinitely without pay, but later said he’d have to show genuine remorse to get a chance at resuming his NFL career.
Vick, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons, made four Pro Bowl appearances over his professional football career. He still holds the record for the most career rushing yards by a quarterback (6,109) and the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season (1,039). The former Virginia Tech standout’s on-the-field career accomplishments include the NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2010) and the collegiate Archie Griffin Award in 1999.
Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick after his release from prison in July 2009, and in August of that year he signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and was fully reinstated in week 6 of the 2009-10 NFL season.
In his dark days, those prison days, Vick said, he did a lot of writing.
“I wrote a lot of people, whether it was prominent people, ambassadors, vice presidents. I was writing everybody,” he said. “I got over like 50,000, 60,000 pieces of mail that came through the prison systems for me. That just goes to show that people did care, and it was people of all different races, all different backgrounds, all different colors, all different denominations, and that’s what kept me uplifted.”
Vick was a target for animal rights activists, and protests followed him in the latter stages of his career. After Vick signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, head coach Mike Tomlin told Trib Total Media that Vick had made efforts to atone for his past. “Rest assured that he has done a lot since some of the things that he has gone through. His track record to this point speaks for itself,” Tomlin said.
According to MNN.com, “since his release from federal prison in 2009, Vick has worked with the Humane Society to help stop dogfighting, and he helped get the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act passed in Congress. Recently, he made a trip to the Pennsylvania statehouse to support a bill that would give police more authority to rescue pets left in hot cars.”
Vick opened up to The Undefeated about retirement, his showcase series, prison and his journey to forgiveness.
How is retirement for you?
I feel good in retirement. As of right now, I feel like I’ve got enough going on to keep me occupied, and I think postcareer, for a lot of players, you worry about what’s to come or you don’t plan for what’s to come, and I didn’t have a plan. I just kind of followed all my resources and just allowed them to help me dictate what was best for my immediate future following retirement and I’ve got combines, showcases coming up for kids.
Ten different showcases in 10 different states, different cities. I’ve got a clothing line that’s about to emerge and some other things that sparked my interest that I think would be beneficial for my brand long term.
How did you decide on starting your showcase and your clothing line?
Well, I’ve done a lot of camps over the years. And camps, they follow the same format. And I think with a showcase, it gives collegiate coaches the opportunity to come out and view the kids and the kids can get some form of recognition in terms of being recruited by a major, Division I university or a DIII school.
I think every kid can place at some level of college football and I’ve been around those kids, following them. A lot of them now are entering the NFL from working with them in 2010, 2011, and that’s the exciting part about it. I’ve found so many kids who I can influence and who I can help.
In regards to the clothing line, I had my brand with Nike years ago, V7, and V7 did very well. We had five different shoes, we had a clothing line consisting of hats, T-shirts, headbands, and it was just a brand within itself that was taking, and I figure now it’s about the next generation.
A lot of kids follow me. A lot of them admired my style of play and look up to me as a role model, so I figure I’d come with the V7 the next generation and just keep the brand going.
How is your showcase camp different from other traditional football camps?
We’re continuing to help educate the kid moving forward. Some kids are going to be sophomores, some are going to be juniors, some are going to be rising seniors. For the younger guys, the underclassmen, they’ll get an opportunity to come back every year, annually, and as the season goes on, anything that they learn from these combines they can take it and apply in the season while they’re playing.
They can’t get it all, but just a weekend worth of consistent coaching and letting the kids know like this is the proper form, this is the proper technique, this is the attitude that you’ve got to display, competition-based, what your vision has to be as far as your competitiveness. Those are things they can take a long way, and it’s up to them to practice these skills on their own postcombine.
How many children do you expect at each showcase?
It’s going to vary. We’re thinking in places like, cities like Atlanta, Dallas, Texas, we’re looking at 500, 600 kids maybe. I don’t want to overwhelm it. I want to be able to be accessible to all the kids that’s at all the combines, so if registration gets too crazy, we’re going to shut it down. But looking at capping off, always trying to cap off at around 400 kids, which will be a good look.
We want to encourage more the middle-school kids, sixth through eighth grade, to come out and be in attendance. They’re the ones that’s going to be able to learn from the older guys, from the guys that are sophomores, juniors, seniors. Even at a young age you can vicariously learn, and we want to always make that a priority.
You’re beginning the camp at an HBCU, Tennessee State University. How did you decide on the various locations?
We would love to go to black schools, but you’ve got to cater to what’s available and the amount of kids that you can have, and it depends on how many fields that they have. That’ll always dictate where the location will be, but we want to be accessible to a whole diversity of people.
Football players come in all sizes, all colors, all shapes, whether small or big, and we encourage everybody to come out. And it’s going to be a great learning experience, first and foremost, and an opportunity to compete at a high level, which is most important.
It’s all about just turning that page, the next generation of athletes to come, on and off the field and, most importantly, being student-athletes. That’s what’s most important, and that’s probably what I preach more than anything. I believe the classroom is more valuable than sports and I took that seriously, and I think that was the reason why my way was paved for me as time went on.
Looking at your overall journey, what is the difference of what you learned when you first got into the league versus what you know exiting?
Well, I think when you first come into the National Football League, it’s a show-and-prove attitude that you have to have. On the field, you want to show your franchise or the franchise who picked you that you were worthy of the pick, whether it’s the first pick or the 250th pick. It’s all about dedicating yourself and it’s all about honing your skills to be the best that you can be, for the overall franchise and for the city. Because, depending on your position, you have a city on your back.
Throughout the whole process, you don’t really understand what it’s like to be in the NFL as far as the glamour, the limelight, all the splendor that may come along with it that you enjoy and that’s what we dream of, but I think inside of that sometimes we lose sight of the real dream, and that’s trying to win a championship and being the best citizen that you can be outside of football.
We lose sight of that, and at a young age I didn’t accept that. I didn’t want to take that responsibility on. I just wanted to play football and just be a good, honest, genuine person. After I had my situation, which I call it, I went in, I came out a better person. I got with a group of people who really cared about me and cared about my well-being and wanted me to succeed off the field first and on the field secondary.
I thought that was important, and what I learned as I went through those years was that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And if I could do it all over again, if I was the person I am today, I wouldn’t have never went through some of the things I went through. But it made me a complete person, and I’m still growing as the days go on.
I think just the journey within itself helped me to mature to a grown man who is dedicated to family, dedicated still to football, and dedicated to my off-the-field endeavors, whichever they may be.
What stages did you go through to overcome your adversity?
Well, I think just stage 1 was accepting it, knowing that, listen, I screwed up, I made a mistake, and somehow, some way this has to be corrected, but as of right now, I don’t know how I can do it, but I know it’s some challenges ahead that I’m not going to like, but I have to deal with.
Step 2 was living in it and understanding that, listen, I’m in a place where I don’t want to be, it was all self-inflicted and I accept it, and it hurts right now and I’m struggling, but I put my faith in God and not in man.
Step 3 was just the whole belief in the people around me and the whole faith thing that I had. And believing in God centered me around people when I came home that gave me a different vision, a different structure, a different outline on what my life could look like in seven years.
I looked at it and I accepted, and I said, ‘Listen, I’ve pushed through the toughest parts of my life, and maybe there will be parts of my life that will be tougher. I know what I leaned on. I’m accepting the truth and faith,’ and being proactive, making my life a reality in terms of what I wanted, and I did that. And that’s where I’m at to this day, and I stand by it.
What has been the hardest part of your journey?
The hardest part of my journey, I think, is being in prison for 18 months. That’s something that you never envision. I know it’s times where people can visualize moments and put yourself in positions and say, ‘Oh no, I don’t want to do that. I never want to be in that position.’
I was one of those guys who always straddled the fence and thought about what could possibly be the worst thing that could happen, and prison, I think, was it. And I never expected to be in that situation or wanted to be, and when I found myself in that situation I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this has happened to me,’ but not for a week, not for a month, or a weekend. It was for 18 months.
Were people’s thoughts and opinions of you important?
Yeah, I always cared what people thought about me ever since I stepped into preschool. I was one of the guys who I always wanted to make my teacher proud. I never wanted to disrespect. If it was a teacher and I looked at her and I thought she was nice and kind and I thought she was beautiful and sweet, then I would go out of my way to make sure that she was proud of me.
At what point did you forgive yourself?
I forgave myself once I finished my prison sentence. I think when it was all said and done and it was over with, I forgave myself. I did my time, and then I was ready to walk into a different walk of life.
Who inspires you?
It’s so many people that inspire me. I would have to say so many coaches. Andy Reid inspired me. Mike Tomlin inspired me. Arthur Blank inspired me. My kids inspired me. My wife, family. Man, the list goes on and on.
A lot of people out there who give me so much inspiration. LeBron James inspires me. Kobe Bryant inspires me. Isaiah Thomas, he inspires me after what he went through last week. I get inspiration from so many places that it’s unbelievable. Even Sergio Garcia winning the Masters two weeks ago from all the adversity he went through.
I find inspiration in people and the moments that they have that’s gratifying. I relate to those situations on all levels because I feel like I’ve been there at some point, and that’s where my appreciation for life comes from.
Do you read a lot?
I did a lot of reading when I was in prison. I still read a lot now. I don’t have a lot of time. I read so many books when I was in prison. I think I’ve read enough for 40 years. I swear. That’s all I did. If I wasn’t playing chess — I learned to play dominoes towards the end — so if I wasn’t playing chess, I was reading. I was always thinking. I always had my mind involved in something.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Man. I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was just the character of a man and what it exists of. I think some people take that for granted, and I think if kids learned that from a young age this world would be a better place. Character goes a long way, and it’s all dictated on how you present yourself over a certain time span, and that’s what I believe in.
I just thought the character of a man dictates the type of person that you are, how people perceive you, was the best piece of advice that I could get because it fits the mold of me. It may be different for other people.
What do you tell other young men who ask for your advice?
Dream. That’s it. You dream, and that may actually turn into something, but I think you have to have imaginary thoughts of what you want your life to look like, because I know from the age of 10 I knew exactly what I wanted my life to look like. Some things went as planned, some things didn’t, but my life turned out the way I wanted it to be and it looked like what I envisioned when I was young, so dream.
If there’s anything regarding your sports path that you could’ve changed, what would that be?
If it’s anything that I truly would change to this day, because I think I did it all, like when I was younger I was lazy. As I got older, I worked harder. I would say just self-preservation. I would have preserved my body a little bit better. I just had ankle surgery, and it stemmed from a lot of downs, a couple of injuries that I had back in the day. Preserving myself is what I would have did just a tad bit better, but the competitive side of me didn’t allow me to do that when I was young.
What do you tell your babies, your children now about perseverance, growth and maturity?
My son is 14, my oldest daughter is 12 and my youngest daughter is 9. I tell them to dream, and the ultimate character to them is going to be dictated on what they learn every day in this household. How they see their mom and their dad conduct themselves on a daily basis. Being vicarious learners and having goals.
Like two weeks ago, I asked them what they wanted to be, all of them. Give me two things that you want to be or you want to do when you turn of age, 18, 21, finish college, and they all had some good answers and I was satisfied with what they wanted. And I think if they can narrow that focus and just take it serious, I think the sky’s the limit for them all because they’re all smart kids and they’ve all got goals and aspirations — but it starts when you’re young, and I try to instill that in them.
What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
In five years, I see myself coaching. I’m setting the platform up now to get me geared into coaching and understand what it’s about. I already know I can do it on the highest level because I played on the highest level. It’s just all about information that won’t be redundant, but I’ll have to just be able to do it all over again.
It’ll give me the opportunity to chase a championship. I want to celebrate one more time in my life. I did it when I was young, had success in college. I didn’t win a national championship, but I know what it feels like to have those good moments and those good years, and I just want to feel that feeling again. If it takes coaching to chase that and be able to fulfill that need in my life, then why not give it a shot?