By S.C. Zuba
He grew up in Virginia. He played college ball at Virginia Tech. He was drafted No. 1 overall in 2001. He rose to stardom faster than anyone could have predicted. He had money. He had fame. He had it all—and he lost it all.
When Michael Vick first signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after his 18-month stint in federal prison for dog fighting, I wrote a column pleading for a second chance for Vick. I asked for fans of the NFL to look past his mistakes, however heinous and appalling they may be. I asked for people who once donned No. 7 Vick jerseys to embrace his return—to realize that he, too, is a person. I asked for a second chance for Vick.
Not surprisingly, that column was met with intense opposition and criticism.
It was as if by standing up for Vick, I was applauding the mistakes of his past.
For reasons I can’t understand, second chances are hard to come by for those in the spotlight. You’ve seen it with Tiger Woods over the past year. It’s as if once someone messes up, they’re black-listed for the rest of their life.
Fast forward one year later to today. Vick is having arguably his greatest season under center. His numbers are off the charts, and his name is surfacing with MVP talk.
Vick is beginning to find his redemption, and to me, it has nothing to do with what he has done on the field. Vick’s redemption stems from his commitment to becoming a better Michael Vick.
In an interview with NBC’s Bob Costas on Sunday Night Football, Vick was asked what redemption means to him.
“Redemption is doing the right thing all across the board,” Vick said. “It’s easy to talk the talk and say, ‘Yeah,. I’m going to be here speaking to this group of kids. Or, I’m going to work with the Humane Society.’ You’ve got to do it, and you’ve got to be consistent about it. You just can’t be doing it just for perception. It takes time. I think my life was always going to be a work in progress. I’m just going to continue to chase success, on and off the field. I think if I do that, I think redemption will come.”
Could this be Vick saying the right thing at the right time? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Watching Vick now, you can see a different person. Every time he steps in front of the microphone, it’s as if he’s grown a little bit since the time before.
So what’s my point in all of this?
It’s simple, really. Your past is not a determinant of your future. It never is. Maybe I’m an optimist, but I believe people can change. Vick has changed. He is better because of the mistakes he made in the past. Others, I believe, are better because of the mistakes he made in the past.
Was what he did wrong? Sick? Twisted? Yes, absolutely, all three. The part I am trying to focus on is that Vick turned a bad situation—possibly the worst situation—into a good situation.
When Vick went to prison, that could have been it for him. That could have been the last time you saw Vick in the spotlight. Instead, Vick used his time behind bars to learn, to grow, to find a way to turn a negative situation into a positive situation.
Like I said earlier, Vick had it all and lost it all. Now he’s getting it all back—and more.
Share your thoughts with S.C. Zuba via e-mail at email@example.com.
From the Nov. 24-30, 2010 issue