With accolades to prove one’s worth justified by the capabilities to perform brilliantly, pro athlete, Michael Vick’s NFL career depicts a tale of illustrious titles overshadowed by perspectives and values. Record-breaking, comeback player of the year, and most valuable; are all labels that leverage an athlete as the best and for Michael, his resume is decorated with such honors. However, the notion of the title “black” will forever marginalize an individual when playing the “American Game”. From having it all stripped away to the rebirth of a respectable man, Michael Vick’s journey is a glimpse of hope that the title doesn’t make the man but the man makes the title. And for Michael, progression is learning from the past in order to build a sustainable legacy.
How did you know you were good enough to play in the NFL?
I mean it was easy for me, lol. I always dominated the kids in the neighborhood growing up. It was easy to score, to get a first down, and to pass the ball, but I worked hard at it. I would watch football all weekend; I was a football addict at a young age. I just had a dream, and I don’t know if people dream like I did or wanted the same thing I wanted from football but I can say that I went out and got it. I found ways to set myself apart and I think I was able to do it and stand out.
What was your most pivotal/influential moment in your career history?
I would have to say winning comeback player of the year. That was a title I wanted and yearned for a while away in prison. To be able to come back and play again and to step out on the field with no accolades attached. I didn’t want to come back winning the super bowl in my first year to shut people up, nor have some form of ego or pride; I didn’t want to use any of that as motivation. My motivation was simply to play again and finish accomplishing what I love to do while doing it right and showing the NFL that I am still worthy enough. Winning that title showed everything, and it’s a trophy that I will cherish forever.
As a role model, do you feel any outside pressures from the world to be the best version of you as possible?
When people look at you as a role model, you are being held to a higher standard than most. To look at it as if there are added pressures, the answer would be yes. You have millions of kids, who are patterning themselves after you and if that’s what it takes to stay motivated or take on the likeness of a role model than I think, it’s my obligations to live up to it, especially since people are holding me to such a high standard. I understand that all eyes are on me. I know that everything I do will be scrutinized and telecast, so I try to make the best decisions and use the right judgments. I try to teach these same responsibilities to kids as well.
Explain the difference in feeling from the first time you ever stepped onto the field as a new signee vs. after prison.
The first time I stepped on the field I was a rookie, everything was unfamiliar and I was just glad to know that I would be able to put on a NFL uniform to accomplish a lifelong dream. When I came back in 2009, it was the same feeling. Proving to myself and others that I belong and that I still had something to offer. What I would say the difference between these two times in my life was my maturity level.
Why is it important to have ownership as an African American?
It’s very important, we are setting the example for the generations to come. Everything will add to the legacy we leave behind. Also, it’s important for people to know that we are not just athletes, but that we can be black influentials, moguls and be iconic.
What are your thoughts on the political rise in the NFL and how players are being treated?
I think people are now willing to listen and are becoming aware that athletes do have a voice and we do have a presence. That’s one of the reasons why we are so marketable. We do play a major part, and of course, there are certain things that we sometimes have to stay away from, but that’s just life.
What does it mean to be Black in America?
People can take what they want from this, but I’m going to say opportunity. America is supposed to be the land of opportunities. There’s a lot that you can take from that quote, so I hope people decide what they want and find satisfaction in it.
Tell us about your many business ventures.
I have a clothing line that’s really taking off. It will soon be in retail stores and on college campuses. This was a huge accomplishment for me in 2018. I’m excited about my production company. We’re going to start producing documentaries and series of all sort. I’m a part owner of the AFFL Flag Football League. It’s a game changer and it’s really taken off. This league will allow people/professionals the opportunity to continue to be involved in the American game they love.
What charities are you involved with?
Well, there’s just one charity at the moment, and it’s The Boys and Girls Club of America. It’s important for me to work with them to help improve their current programming and to provide opportunities for every community kid that is involved with the organization. The Boys and Girls Club was a major part of my childhood.
As a celebrity, do you feel as if you owe it to your community to give back?
It’s the right thing to do. If you can’t pull each other up then what value are you adding? My worth goes beyond athletics; it’s about what you can do in the community and how you can help others. It’s all about creating opportunities for self and those around you. The world must go on, but it has to be in a good state to do so.
Do you see any similarities in personality traits in your children as you did in yourself as a child?
All their personalities are like mine, they pay great attention and are thinkers. I can talk to them on any level and we find ways to understand each other. My oldest daughter plays basketball, my youngest daughter is more of the brainiac and school means a lot to her, she’s making straights As, and my son is into fashion. So, everyone has their own lane and I appreciate that and acknowledge it. My wife plays a big part making sure they all stay focused while I work on the many things I have on my plate.
What does forgiveness look like to you?
The things I have encountered sticks a little bit, but people have to be accountable and realize that they were once young. We all came from different homes and backgrounds, so I say don’t judge me based on what you see on the field or in the media but judge me once you get to know me and my story. Some people grow up privileged and some people don’t and those who don’t can relate more and understand the fight and hustle. People don’t forgive because they are typically suffering from something. Other than that, if we don’t understand progress, then we will never be able to forgive.
What do you hope to leave as a legacy when it’s all said and done?
I want to leave knowing that the world knew I was a respectable man and that I had faults, but as I grew older, I learned from my mistakes. For that alone, I became a better person. I’m probably sure that my story won’t be the last; it’s not very rare that you find guys that go through something and are able to learn lessons along the way. But I want people to be able to take away the fact that I am and was a respectable man. Respect goes a long way, some people may say loyalty and honesty and such adjectives, but I think respect goes further. It holds and builds bonds and relationships to last a lifetime.
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Photo credit: Fox Sports