by Mark Davis
Arrogance. Selfishness. Poor decision making. Greed. A forgotten Bible. These are the things that tackled Michael Vick when seemingly no one in the National Football League could. During New Beginnings Fellowship Church’s “Tuesday Night Lights” youth service, the former Falcons, Eagles, Jets, and Steelers quarterback shared his rags to riches to prison rags to redemption story. During a spirit filed, high energy service, the Fox Sports analyst was open about his past mistakes, his tough upbringing in Newport News, Virginia, and how these things helped to drive him to become the man that God intended for him to be.
As a youth, Mr. Vick slept with his Bible under his pillow. He didn’t really understand how, but it was a source of comfort, but he would hide it if a friend came to spend the night. As he grew to be a star athlete in Pop Warner, high school, Virginia Tech, and eventually the NFL, the Bible was no longer as prominent in his life literally and figuratively. While things came easily on the field, off the field, unhealthy habits and the pull of hometown friends would pop up from time to time and cause issues. A 1.9 GPA during his junior year of high school almost derailed his future. His coach, Tommy Reamon, told him that he wouldn’t talk to him again until he got his grades up. Coach Reamon ignored him for almost an entire semester. Hurt, Mr. Vick pulled his grades up and was able to get a scholarship to Virginia Tech. As a redshirt freshman, Mr. Vick led Virginia Tech to the National Championship game against Florida State. After another sensational season, Mr. Vick was tired of going to class. This caused his eligibility to be in jeopardy, so he declared early for the NFL draft. Seeing his sensational ability, the Atlanta Falcons traded up to make him the number one overall pick.
As he flourished on the field, poor decision making began to lead to his downfall in life. Mr. Vick believed that he could do whatever he wanted. Relying on pure talent, Mr. Vick wasn’t focusing on improving his craft. He didn’t spend time studying his playbook or working out and began to hang out with people from his hometown. Those “friends” were involved in many questionable activities, including dog fighting. A cousin was stopped by authorities in one of Mr. Vick’s vehicles with a large amount of marijuana. To lighten his sentence, he cooperated with the authorities and volunteered information on the dog fighting ring. Eventually, Mr. Vick pled guilty to financing the ring and was sentenced to 23 months in Leavenworth Federal Prison.
It was in Leavenworth that Mr. Vick returned to the Bible that he had long ago began to turn from. It took prison to remove his old crew. Mr. Vick said that it was during this time that he found out who his true friends were. Former Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy was one of those who was there during this time. As Mr. Vick and Pastor James Anthony Jackson, Sr. spoke during a question and answer session, Mr. Vick shared that it is during this time that Jesus became real in his life again as everything that he thought he needed was taken away from him. The Bible that he had hidden from others as a child returned and was now in full view.
The irony is that prison wasn’t the darkest time in his life. That time was right before he was caught. Mr. Vick said that in his heart he was done. He knew it wasn’t right and wanted to walk away. But he didn’t. Upon reflection, Mr. Vick says now, that he wouldn’t change the way things happened. By not walking away, he was sent to prison which gave him time to “decompress”, change his crew. “I needed to miss my wife, to appreciate her now,” said Mr. Vick. He also said that God gave him back everything that he lost and more because God knew that he could handle it this time. In keeping with that spirit of giving, New B gave away over $3,500 in college scholarships to high school seniors during the fellowship evening with Mr. Vick.