The NFL selected a handful of veterans to speak to the rookie class, and Michael Vick is one of those chosen. His story is, of course, one that every young person should hear, absorb and learn from.
Vick isn't the only player to speak to the rookies. Adam "Pac Man" Jones and Terrell Owens are also due to speak, and I hope to hear what they say as well.
But my story is Vick, whom I will meet at the airport in Cleveland and travel with to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH. I've been with Vick on several occasions when he has talked with school children in Philadelphia and each time the kids have seemed completely attentive. How much did they learn from what Vick said? How much did his words change their lives?
This time, Vick speaks to young men who think they know it all. These are 21-, 22-year-old men who have been blessed with great gifts and who have been treated differently since they were 12 years old because they were great in football. These are young men who know are asked to thrive in a world of grown men who have learned how to fight and sacrifice and scratch and keep themselves employed.
These rookies from the NFC have read Vick's story many times. They idolized him 10 years ago when he was the most exciting player in the NFL when he played in Atlanta, and they were teenagers when Vick's career, and life, splintered and he was sent to jail and forced to change his life, or lose his freedom and his career.
They were in college when Vick joined the Eagles and resurrected his career and his image. They have formed their own opinions of Vick and of his rise and fall and rise again.
And they will be a captive audience on Monday afternoon. I look forward to the message and to the reaction from the players. The NFL spoils young men and then cruelly takes the game away from them when their skills slip and, as we all have seen, the transition to the real world can often be unpleasant.
I think this is a grand stage for Vick to shine, to spread his word and to give a player in the crowd a moment or two of pause before making a decision that could forever negatively alter his life.
I look forward to walking through an airport with Vick to see the reaction from passersby, and to see how he responds to the trip to and tour through the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I want to hear what Vick has to say to the young men who are now his peers.
I have visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame a couple of times, the most recent of which was when the Eagles took their Class of 2008 Rookies to Canton, Ohio to hear from retired players Troy Vincent and Michael Irvin. Both Vincent and Irvin were compelling speakers who spoke of their successes on the field and the hits and misses off the field. Irvin, in particular, had a message to remember. He told the rookies that he had accomplished so much on the field with Super Bowl victories and Pro Bowl appearances and how, one year earlier, he had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, but when he came home one day after his playing days were done and his child told Irvin what she found of him when she Googled his name, Irvin's heart broke.
"I would trade all that I did on the field," said Irvin then, "to have had her not learn of the mistakes I made off the field. You have to understand that everything you do on and off the field, the whole world is going to know about it."
It was a great speech, an honest moment, and the players seemed affected by it. I remember how DeSean Jackson sought out Irvin as the team bus was leaving on the way back to the airport and how he and Irvin exchanged numbers.
Now it is Vick's turn to make a difference for the young players in the league. It is a day I look forward to enjoying ....
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- In case you missed it, safety O.J. Atogwe will wear No. 43. Just thought you wanted to know.
- Notice how the Eagles will jump on any defensive linemen they think has a chance to develop? It isn't much different on the other side of the ball, as the Eagles have really changed the dynamic of the potential reserves along the offensive line. They've brought in D.J. Jones, Thomas Welch, Steve Vallos and Mike Gibson, and have retained King Dunlap in addition to using two draft picks on interior linemen. So if you want to know why the Eagles added defensive tackle Tevita Finau, there's your reason.
- The players are still permitted to work out at the NovaCare Complex as part of this phase of the offseason. Most of them are off enjoying the last couple of weeks before training camp begins.