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All Eyes On Vick ... On And Off The Field

Had this been five of six years ago, as Michael Vick painted the picture, he would have used the days after a big performance to work on his golf game, or maybe go fishing, or even just chill and spend as much time as he could away from the game. Now, Vick explained to a packed house at Imhotep Charter School in Philadelphia, he is making the sacrifice to become the best player in the league.

It was a fascinating snippet of Vick's life these days, the morning he spent with the school kids in grades 9-12, a slice of Vick's rehabilitating image. He arrived at the school -- a model of what should be, with a 100 percent graduation rate for years, with children who are respectful and who understand the importance of having a vision in life -- with great fanfare as the staff fawned over him and made him feel welcome.

Vick then told his story, of how he was a star athlete in high school and then in college and how he became the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL and then, in a very short period of time, how it all got away from him. The discipline in life. The understanding of making the right decisions. Making a sacrifice for the greater good.

And then, most important, of taking advantage of the second chance he has been given.

"I am willing to make the sacrifice now," said Vick. "That wasn't the case before. Stay focused and stay determined."

Everything Vick does these days is worthy of examination. He is, from every angle, a humble and appreciative man of the opportunity he has been given in life to restore his name and his game, on and off the field. Vick was treated royally at the school -- wild clapping throughout -- but the most important part of the trip, he said, was to make sure his message got home.

At one point, the kids were asked to raise their hands if they had ever attended a dog fight, or if they had been part of one in any way. A huge percentage of the children raised their hands. It was startling, and Vick noticed.

"It just goes to show that it still goes on out there in the communities," said Vick. "As a partner in the Humane Society, we've got to continue to try to influence kids that, when you see things like that involving your community, walk away and don't be involved. It was very stunning to me to see the number of hands that went up."

The guy has said and done all the right things since he has been an Eagle, he really has. I didn't know Vick when he was in Atlanta, but as he describes his time there, he didn't apply himself the right way. He didn't sacrifice to make himself the best player in the league. He simply didn't work hard enough at his game.

The time away, then, turned Vick's life around. Now he wants to make sure that his voice is heard through his involvement with the Humane Society of America. He made visits to schools throughout last season and has continued that this year. The national awareness of dog fighting is through the roof, in great part thanks to Vick's involvement.

Vick has walked his talk off the field. On the field, of course, he is as hot as any quarterback in the league with a passer rating of 110.2 in three games. Vick's popularity is soaring. It is like old times again for Vick, with the exception that his perspective has changed.

"I am grateful to be here in this situation and I don't take it for granted at all," said Vick. "I'm not sure I approached it the same way before. When you are young like that, at least in my case, maybe I didn't fully understand or appreciate what I had until it was gone. I'm not going to do anything to jeopardize my situation. I'm going to work hard and dedicate myself to being a parent and to being the best player I can be to help this football team win the Super Bowl."

Life is great for Michael Vick again. He made his mistakes, he paid the price and now he is on the way back to the top. The job is not yet complete, and the truth is that it may never be complete. There is always going to be another critic to convince and another child to help steer in the right direction. Vick can't live on his reputation. He has to deliver every day.

"I wake up and I think about what my legacy is going to be," he said. "I come to work every day with a smile on my face glad that I have been given this chance to redeem myself"

Vick spent about an hour at the school and then returned to the NovaCare Complex. He grabbed lunch and went into the film room. A big game waits on Sunday when Washington comes to town. Vick has to be prepared for an aggressive scheme, a blitzing attack, a very good defense.

"Big game, big game," he said. "It's a big game for this team. We have to win in our division. All of that other stuff, with Donovan (McNabb) coming in, I don't think that plays into anything for me. I'm sure he would say the same thing. I have a job to do, and that is to win for the Philadelphia Eagles."

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