It was going to be a day off until the chance came to speak to his young peers and make a difference in this NFL world at the NFL's Rookie Symposium for the Class of 2012 ...
What was he to say? He was there to tell his story to the NFC’s rookies, part of the NFL’s efforts to get these kids to wrap their minds around what the NFL is all about, how the rise and fall can happen so quickly and how, once a player is done on the field, a productive life ahead waits.
|Michael Vick shared his amazing personal journey at the NFL's Rookie Symposium on Monday in Aurora, Ohio. Former NFL player and current SiriusXM host Ross Tucker moderated the discussion.|
The message, Vick said after his 30 minutes on stage, was simple, but incredibly important. If these rookies could take one mental note from what he said, what would it be?
“Be accountable for everything you do,” said Vick. “You can’t blame anybody else for your actions. The choices that you make each and every day are what shape your life.”
Did the kids listen? Would Vick have listened way back in 2001 when he was the first overall draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons if a 10-year veteran had been on stage in front of him, telling him to “be responsible” and to “make the right choices” in life?
“If a guy had said what I said, about going to prison, about losing $100 million? Yeah, I would have listened,” said Vick. “I hope these young guys do listen and understand that it comes and goes and it can be taken away from you. I’m fortunate to have the chance to be here, with the Eagles, with a coach I love and fans who support me and teammates who have my back. I’m the lucky one.”
It’s a marvelous program put forth by the NFL, spearheaded by former Eagle Troy Vincent, the NFL’s Vice President of Player Engagement organization. He put together a cast of some of the NFL’s most notorious characters to speak to the rookies this week – Adam “Pacman” Jones spoke on Sunday night and Terrell Owens is due in on Wednesday – and he wants the players to be real.
Vick was real, as he always is. He didn’t blame anybody for his downfall and his incarceration. He admitted that nobody could tell him otherwise when he was a young NFL player, that he skipped town every Monday to go home instead of working late into the night in his playbook and that he felt his superior athletic ability was enough overcome any blind spot in reading defenses or throwing away from a blitz.
“Michael was Michael. This is someone who volunteered his time. Michael made the step today from being an active participant in the NFL to being an active contributor,” said Vincent, who brought along, among others, former Eagles wide receiver James Thrash. Thrash works for the NFL at the club level managing player programs. “Michael was open and honest and he gives another guy a chance to win, if they listen. What he shared with this group made him vulnerable. But he also shared that you can overcome obstacles. I can’t write that script.”
Each and every Eagles draft pick was there in the middle section in a room of about 130 rookies, and they rose to greet Vick and gave him a standing ovation when he was finished.
“Everybody has heard his story from the outside, but this was the first time his teammates heard his story completely, from him," said Harold Carmichael, the team's director of player programs. "I saw today the players sit up, I saw some guys stand up for Michael and this is what you want to get from Michael. It takes a lot of courage to get up there and talk about what went wrong in his life and what he did to turn his life around. I thought Michael was outstanding.”
"I wanted to be here," said Vick. "I felt like it was important for me to be here to talk to you all, to you NFL players. I hope you are ready for the ride. It's fun. It is what you make it to be.
"Your dream is to get here and now you're here. Continue to dream. How successful you are going to be is determined by how much confidence you have in yourself and how much work you are willing to put in to succeed."
Carmichael is impressed by this group of rookies, an attentiive group that works hard, loves the game and shows maturity.
“I love this group of rookies. I’ve been so proud of what these guys have done as far as being on time, taking notes, asking questions and making the most of this program," said Carmichael. "I’ve had other good groups, but this is my best group so far. Everybody should be proud of this group of Philadelphia Eagles rookies."
Think about the career path Vick has taken: From superstar college player to No. 1 draft pick overall to the $100 million man and then to the jail cell. Push the pause button. Which way would he go after jail? Would the NFL every hear from Michael Vick again?
Now here he is, a model citizen who pays back his debt every day. He is not out to change your mind, because he can't do that. He can only live his life the right way, every day, every decision, from now until the end of time.
"It was taken away from me," he said. "When I was in that prison cell in Kansas, I understood why I was in there. It was bad. You don't want it to end that way. True story. I could see it coming, though. I thought about it and asked myself, 'Should I stop doing what I was doing?' I didn't even stop.
"Everybody makes their own decisions. A friend can't make you do things if you are strong enough to say no ... I wasn't strong enough to say no."
He is now. Vick has his life back on and off the football field. He has the highest of aspirations for the Eagles, a team that is ready to climb back to the top of the league. Vick is taking the right path, step by step, off the field.
He's out to make a difference with school-age kids or young men entering the NFL. The message is the same to all: You are what you make your life out to be.
His words were just one experience for the NFL rookies, part of Vincent's grand plan to help players off the field during their playing days and beyond.
“Engage and utilize the resources what each club and what the NFL provide," said Vincent. "There are people here who want to assist you on your journey. The game will end and when it does, there is a lot of life to live. Let us help you.”