Michael Vick began his reclamation project with the Eagles. Credit: Getty Images
There apparently is no such thing as a second chance for Michael Vick, who continues to be haunted by the mistakes of his past.
The awareness of a petition on Change.org to ban Vick from SUNY Cortland — where the Jets hold their training camp — came to light this week. The petition has now crossed the 10,000 signature mark.
That Vick once abused animals is a fact, but his effort to reclaim his life and make things right is still beyond the grasp of some small-minded people, unwilling to give him a chance at continuing to remake his life.
No matter what he does from here on out, Vick will forever be linked to the dogfighting ring run out of his southeastern Virginia home — a lifestyle he has now turned his back on. Vick served time in prison and has used his mistakes as a teaching tool for young people. But that has been lost on those who continue to want to crucify the man.
In a society that believes in rehabilitation, Vick continues to be a martyr for his poor lifestyle decisions. Seeking to ban him from training camp or planning to protest about his past is not what a society should be about.
What Vick did to those dogs, including being shot and electrocuted, is nothing short of awful. But in the days and months after his release, he has sought to turn the mistakes of his past into something far more meaningful. The Vick who made those errors sought the advice and mentorship of Tony Dungy, the legendary football coach who gave him an outlook deep with faith. What Dungy instilled in Vick is evident this day; it has become part of who the Jets quarterback is and who he will become.
It is a reclamation project of one of the most talented players in NFL history, a player whose legacy had a trajectory toward Canton and instead saw him sidetracked by his own poor judgments.
Who Vick was then is not who Vick is now.
The NFL is full of players plucked from projects and prisons, former drug users and those accused of burglary, theft and even worse, who have made a U-turn on their collective lives.
To ignore Vick's past would be to ignore the man he's become — a man who has stood up for animal rights since his release and even pushed for legislation to protect animals from similar abuse. No story about Vick would be complete without this awful, terrible chapter in his life, without the heart-wrenching photos of the suffering animals from his very backyard.
But the next chapter, the one he is writing now, also must be written and can't be ignored. The stories of how he has led the life of a changed man, and how he has put character and conviction first.
Those seeking to ban him from training camp in upstate New York, who are already painting the protest signs, must not believe in second chances. Perhaps none of those planning protests have ever received a second chance, but it would seem that Vick's life should be embraced and not picketed.
The blessing and curse of football is that you are only as good as your last season, your last game and your last play. A player is judged for who he is in the moment, and an NFL career is boom or bust based on the collection of those moments. In much the same way, Vick must be judged not as who he was yesterday but as the man he is today.
He isn't a perfect man. Vick will acknowledge that he has been no saint in his past. But he is a changed man, one whose life should be celebrated and not shouted down.