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Former Coach Dungy In Vick's Corner

Perhaps the person most responsible for Michael Vick's return to the NFL is former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, his personal mentor who joined Eagles' head coach Andy Reid on stage for Friday's press conference.

A well-known Christian, Dungy spent countless hours over the last year speaking with Vick during his incarceration at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. The two discussed Vick's past and more importantly, what the future held for the former NFL first-round draft pick.

"I really got the sense that he wanted to do some great things," Dungy said. "He wanted to be a positive role model for young people. He wanted to get back to his family."

Dungy maintains that Vick is not the same person who organized and participated in a dog-fighting operation, and that he is deserving of a second chance.

Vick has that chance in Philadelphia in what Dungy termed "a symbol of some great leadership and Christian forgiveness."

"I know in talking to Mike we really focused on this situation and I told him what I knew about Mr. Lurie, about Andy, about the organization. He knew a lot of the players," Dungy said. "Mike made this decision, but I was 100 percent behind it. I think it's a great place for him to be supported."

Asked if, provided he was still a head coach in NFL, he would consider signing Vick, Dungy said: "I would have talked to him and seen where he'd fit in and probably with our offense I would have probably asked him if he would consider playing another position, but I would have liked to have him on my team and we would have seen how it worked out, hypothetically."

Dating back to 1997 when he coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dungy has been active in programs assisting inmates and ex-offenders in both Tampa and Indianapolis. It remains a passion of his today.

That said, Dungy does not view his mentoring of vick as a risky move. He says he is simply doing what he hopes someone would do for him.

"I don't think I took a chance. I did what I hope someone would do for me if I made a mistake," Dungy said. "When I went into Leavenworth, one of the questions I asked Mike was, 'Where was the Lord in all of this.' He explained to me his spiritual walk growing up and the fact that when he got to the NFL that was one of the mistakes that he made. He kind of felt like he didn't need the Lord anymore.

"With some of the things that happened, he felt like he needed to turn back and that's when I really felt that this young man is going in the right direction."

The two men have remained in close contact since Vick was released in May, and Dungy has been a liaison between the exiled quarterback and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

It helps to have a Super Bowl winning coach in your corner, and that's what Vick has in Dungy, the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl.

"I told Andy I don't want to overstep my bounds, but I'll be here to help him in any capacity he wants," Dungy said.

"I am really happy that things turned out this way. I am proud of the Philadelphia Eagles. I know they didn't do this as a charity measure, they feel like Mike is going to help their football team and be a weapon for them. But they also stepped out to give a man a second chance and I think that's important."

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