SNOW HILL – Philadelphia
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick made a pre-season stop in Snow Hill this week,
extolling to high school students the importance of making good decisions and
doing the right thing in a well-received presentation on Monday.
The Snow Hill auditorium
was abuzz in the moments preceding Vick’s introduction by Principal Tom Davis
and the room exploded in a cacophony of cheers, hoots and hollers when the
once-fallen NFL star appeared from behind the curtain, proving, at least for
one night, this truly is the land of second chances. If the Snow Hill students
and those assembled held any animosity toward Vick for his dog fighting
activities, it didn’t come through with the warm reception he received.
As Vick moved through
his speech, he owned up to his actions and did not duck the dog fighting issue.
When it was time for the students to ask questions, they did not skirt the
issue either. When asked by a student how and why he got involved in dog
fighting, Vick was candid.
“I got involved at a
young age and didn’t have anybody to tell me it was wrong,” he said. “I didn’t
know the difference. I never thought it was wrong. I never knew there were so
many people who cared about the protection of animals. I was doing it because I
didn’t know it was wrong.”
Vick’s ascent to the top
of the football world was as steep as his fall. He finished third in Heisman
voting as a freshman at Virginia Tech and left for the NFL draft after his
sophomore season. He was selected No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons,
becoming the first African-American quarterback to be taken with the first pick
in the draft, and signed a $100 million contract.
After six seasons in
Atlanta, during which he led the Falcons to the playoffs two times, he was
implicated in a dog-fighting ring at his home in Virginia in April 2007. In
August 2007, he pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge and was sentenced to
21 months in prison, followed by two months in home detention.
“I basically had the
whole world in my hands, but I was stuck in my ways,” he said. “I was doing
things I thought were okay. One slip up can put you in a bad situation. I ended
up in a place I didn’t want to be. I was on top of the world, but I gave it all
away by making a bad decision.”
incarceration, the NFL reinstated Vick, but the Falcons considered him damaged
goods. The Eagles took a chance on him and he was reinstated after the third
game of last season. He told Snow Hill students on Monday he was living his
dream before a series of bad decisions derailed his career.
“Like everybody else, I
had dreams, but unlike most people, my dreams included playing at a high level
in the NFL,” he said. “I was living my dreams until everything came to a
connection to Worcester County Public Schools’ Supervisor of Student Services
Frederick Grant brought him to Snow Hill High on Monday for his motivational
speech to students. The recurring message was the importance of making the
right decisions and listening carefully to parents, guardians, teachers and
“Each one of you has a
mom and dad, people who care for you,” he said. “But they can only tell you so
much. Sometimes, when you’re a kid, you find yourself in a situation where you
say ‘I should have listened to mom and dad.’”
Vick told the students
he should have heeded his own advice rather than falling in with those he
thought were his friends.
“Maybe things happen for
a reason,” he said. “I think about why it happened and I realize I wasn’t
strong enough. I couldn’t walk away from people who I thought had my best
interest at heart.”
Vick was clearly
remorseful about his dog-fighting activities.
“There are a lot of
things I wish I could go back and change,” he said. “You can’t. You can’t go
back and do it the right way. A lot of times, I sit back and think about the
things I wish I could take back.”
Vick is currently
working closely with the Humane Society on its anti-dog-fighting campaign while
trying to repair his personal and public image.
“I have to dedicate, or
re-dedicate, myself to be the best person I can be, an ambassador to the
community,” he said. “Those are things I think about everyday. How this has
affected my kids, my mom, my sister. You represent not only yourself, but your
family, your school, the people who are close to you.”
His message to the
students at Snow Hill was a clear one. He extolled the virtues of listening to
parents, teachers and coaches, staying in school and getting good grades and
preparing themselves for the next chapter in their lives.
“Think about the things
that are important to you,” he said. “Where do you want to go? How do I get
there? Who can help me get there? Don’t be afraid to fail, but don’t be afraid
to make some sacrifices to get there. It’s very important that you take this
time over the summer to get yourself prepared for the next stage in your life.”
When asked what his
greatest motivation is now, Vick said repairing the damage to his family was
the top priority.
“Making my kids proud of
me,” he said. “I know they’re going to have to go through things because of
what I did, but at the end of the day, I want them to say they ‘I’m proud of my
dad’. I’m still holding my head up high. I still regret everything I did, but
it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The evening was not
without its humorous moments. One Snow Hill football player told Vick “you’re a
beast and I’m getting your jersey tomorrow,” to which he responded, “thank you,
just make sure you’re in the weight room tomorrow.”
The funniest segment of
the evening occurred when a student, perhaps remembering the part of the
introduction about his record $100 million contract, asked “Can I have $40.”
Vick told the students
and those assembled he is completely dedicated to his work with the Humane
Society and not just working on his public image.
“I’m working with the
Humane Society and I’m trying to make dog fighting go away,” he said. “I’m not
just doing the service, I’m serious about that. A lot of people gave me a
second chance. You can’t be doing something if you’re not completely into it.”