In Michael Vick’s memoir, “Finally Free,” he details the arrogance and transgressions that sent him to jail and almost derailed one of the most prolific NFL careers in the league. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback had a tough last year when the Eagles struggled through a losing season, weak coaching, an ineffective offensive line and other maladies, but this upcoming season, Vick will likely still be the starting quarterback. That he even got to the Eagles in the first place is a miracle. The former Atlanta Falcon was a superstar athlete who in the last decade, was one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league. Vick was one of the few scrambling quarterbacks of his era, leading the Falcons for six seasons. But even then he was controversial – once missing two flights to a congressional breakfast that was to honor his charity efforts. In another well-reported controversy, a former girlfriend alleged Vick gave her genital herpes, a case ultimately settled out of court.
In 2007, Vick pled guilty to federal dog-fighting charges in connection with a dog-fighting ring he financed in his native Virginia. His guilty plea included admissions that he knew of underperforming dogs being killed and participated in some of their deaths. After serving almost two years in federal prison, Vick found a path back to the NFL through his mentor, former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who counseled him and helped broker a deal that landed Vick with the Eagles. Vick’s 2010 season became one of the most inspirational in NFL history as the player who lost everything – his freedom, his income, his job and his reputation – had a breakout year that featured one of the most memorable performances of his career. Unfortunately, though he was embraced by most of the Philadelphia football fan community and has led pretty much an exemplary life since he started playing there (including marrying his longtime sweetheart and mother of his two daughters, Kijafa Frank), last season was a bust for Vick and the Eagles. Vick was injured for much of the season as a porous offensive line and poor coaching rendered him virtually ineffective.
Things are looking better for the upcoming season, as longtime Eagles head coach Andy Reid has been replaced by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who football insiders say is a better fit for Vick’s game. “Right now I think Michael Vick is the starter,” Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy told Bleedinggreennation.com this week. “People forget- this is Michael Vick, one of the best athletes to play this game. He’s got a lot to prove this year, but he’s ready to roll. He knows people are questioning if he can get it done, and he’s gonna prove this year he can.”
Now a spokesman for The Humane Society who talks to kids around the country about the evils of animal cruelty and dog-fighting, Vick’s story of redemption is one of hope for anyone who thought they could never return from a fall from grace. “Finally Free” tells the story from the inside out. The final chapter has yet to be written, of course, but Eagles fans hope the Vick era will end with the Super Bowl championship that’s proven elusive for over two decades. Vick’s supporters simply hope that their faith in his return to respectability wasn’t in vain. As Vick acknowledges, second chances are rare. When you’re a black man in the public eye, they’re almost nonexistent. Vick’s story has proven that they do exist, if you can make the best of them. Watch the trailer for “Finally Free” below.