He’s got his starting position on the team. He’s performing well and loving the game. His family is settled in their home in SJ. Right now, Michael Vick is in a good place, a very good place. It took a long time to get here, and it sure wasn’t easy, but the Eagles quarterback knows that life, right now, is good. And there’s a definite possibility that tomorrow will be even better.

Michael Vick is standing at the podium following the first game of the Eagles 2013 regular season, a game in which the offense Vick guides burst out of the gates at a sprinter’s pace and grabbed the sports nation’s attention.

Philadelphia Eagles arrive at the Buffalo Marriott in Amherst, New York on Saturday, October 8th 2011. ( Photo by Brian Garfinkel)

Michael Vick is interviewed by the press in 2011

Vick had just thrown two touchdown passes and run for another in the Eagles’ victory over the defending NFC East champions, the Washington Redskins. He was pleased that new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense had drawn favorable reviews.

“I feel like I could play another four quarters,” he says. “I believe in everything Coach is doing, everything he is calling for us. It was fun to go out there.”

Eight months earlier and 220 highway miles to the north, Vick was in an entirely different place in his career. He had just quarterbacked the final game of the 2012 season, and the Eagles lost 42-7 to the Giants. It turned out to be the final game of head coach Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure in Philadelphia, and it was a low point.

Vick met the media following the game and wondered aloud about his future. Would he ever play for the Eagles again? What was the next step in his career with an expected change coming for Reid? After all, Reid was the man who had taken a chance and brought Vick back to the NFL after the quarterback’s 548-day imprisonment.

It didn’t take long to find out. The Eagles replaced Reid with Kelly, who then made the call to keep Vick on the roster and allow the veteran to compete for a starting job with second-year man Nick Foles.

That’s all Vick needed to become whole again.

“Going through the process of competing was so good for me. We all learned the offense together and got on the same page with the coaches and all of our teammates. It was intense, and it was great,” says Vick. “There’s a lot to learn. We were all pushed and we all pushed each other, so everyone raised his game.

“I trained for this season like never before. I knew I was going to need it. I’m up to 220 pounds. [He gained just under eight pounds of muscle in the off-season.] I’m ready for the rigors of this season. It’s going to be a long season.”

Vick was named the starter after two preseason games, so everything has come together for Vick.

The first pick in the NFL draft in 2001, Vick has enjoyed many highs and endured some painful lows in the 12 years since. He is all grown up now, a married man with three children (a son and two daughters), living in his Southern New Jersey home. He’s gone from the top to the very bottom. He spent years working hard to get back to the top of his profession after missing the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons while spending time in prison for his role in a dog fighting ring.

“No doubt about it. I am blessed to be where I am,” Vick says. “I have spent time thinking about how things could have gone better for me, the path I’ve taken, and I think about the great times and the great memories that I have. I put all of that in a box, and I throw it into my memory bank. Whether it was good or bad, it turned me into the person I am today.”

The person he is today is a star football player — and a family man. He’s trying to keep life as normal as possible, finding the balance between work and home. Vick doesn’t work a 9-to-5 job; when he isn’t on the practice field, he’s in the weight room, or he’s in a cold tub, or he’s getting a massage. There is mandatory film study and many hours when Vick is on his own watching, studying and looking for an edge.

Twelve years into the NFL, Vick knows he has to be immersed in his playbook as much as he possibly can. Kelly’s offense is something the league is talking about, so to run it right requires Vick to be at the top of his mental game.

“It’s a very challenging task. Every year in the NFL it’s tough mentally and physically. I’ve learned that as my career has gone on. I’ve gotten a lot better at that part of the game,” says Vick. “Every player out here is a great player, a great athlete. The edge comes mentally as much as it does physically.”

The edge is there. Vick is the quarterback operating an offense that has the NFL’s axis spinning. You can’t see an analyst opening his mouth without hearing an opinion on the Eagles, and on Vick. Is this a career re-birth for a player who has had a few already?

“It feels like it in a lot of ways,” Vick says. “Chip said we would all start over with him, and he’s been true to his word. I know I’m having a lot of fun, loving it. We all are. I think it shows in the way we’re playing football.”

Michael Vick during the 16th Annual Eagles Youth Partnership Playground Build at Comegys Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Brian Garfinkel)

Vick pitched in at a Southwest Philly playground build in 2012

“He’s been a leader since the day he became an Eagle. He is somebody who we can all relate to,” says Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant. “Michael has been in the spotlight since he was in college, probably before that. We all knew what happened with him when he signed here, and we accepted him with open arms. Michael is the leader on this football team, because we all respect what he’s been through on and off the football field.”

“Michael is the man, and he has been since he got here,” says Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos. “He has overcome so much to get back to the top. He isn’t going to let that go. Michael is a determined guy.”

Vick’s resilience and resolve have been tested repeatedly. Upon Vick’s signing in 2009, the national media and fans filled the airwaves with their often-colorful opinions on his character, but Vick didn’t hide. Instead, he joined with the Humane Society and delivered powerful messages to inner-city schools in Philadelphia and along the East Coast. He told the kids to accept responsibility and own up to their mistakes, to learn from them, and never repeat them.

Michael Vick at the opening of Team Vick Field in North Philadelphia

Michael Vick at the opening of Team Vick Field in North Philadelphia

Vick did much of his work quietly, in the shadows. He still works with the Humane Society, even as the television cameras and the talk show requests have faded. He recently donated $200,000 to build a desperately needed football field for an inner-city team.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment for Vick is that he is just a regular husband and father now, albeit one who has impressive skills on the football field. He is, at an advanced age by NFL standards, tearing up the league early in the 2013 season. He likes taking his family to the Cherry Hill Mall – “One of the best malls I’ve ever been to. That place has just about everything.” – and he likes to work on his golf game, even squeezing in some playtime in public with the kids when nobody is watching.

“When I’m away from work I’m home with my family, and I’m truly happy there. Going home and being home is the greatest feeling. Being there with my wife and my kids, it’s the ultimate,” says Vick. “You talk about things with your wife and your kids that you don’t talk about with anyone else, and that’s special. My home is my castle. Home means peace and enjoyment for me.

“My kids motivate me more than anything. They motivate me to become the person I want them to become. Boy or girl. I’m talking about from a character standpoint. I want them to get the most out of themselves, and be the best they can be and to be happy with themselves.”

Vick is far from finished on the football field. He expresses a burning desire to take his game to new heights. Clearly, Michael Vick is in a good place.

“Every day I wake up and I’m breathing, I’m a happy man,” he says. “There’s always a new opportunity waiting for me, and I love that.”

October 2013
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