In the wake of the Penn State scandal, and an NFL offseason that seems more arrest-heavy than usual, it's probably past time to remind ourselves that when we stray from whatever right path we've set for ourselves, we're not the only ones affected.
Few people know that better than Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who served time in federal prison on dogfighting charges from December 2007 through July 2009. When Vick appeared on the CNN show "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Tuesday to promote his new book, "Michael Vick: Finally Free, An Autobiography," he started by talking about what he learned about himself in prison.
"I learned that I wasn't always as forthright as I wanted to be, and thought I could be," Vick said. "Being in a prison cell, you have a lot of time to sit back and think about the things you didn't do so [well]. Knowing myself, I know I was supposed to do these things correctly, so I was a liar in a sense. I wanted to change, but it was too late. I was off in the dark in a prison cell — no opportunity to explain, or even ask for forgiveness."
And when Morgan asked Vick what the lowest moment was, the answer was easy.
"The lowest moment was when I had to tell my son that I was going to prison, and that I was going to be going for two years."
Vick said that his son was watching television when the news came up, and his son started screaming.
"He just broke down crying," he recalled. "It shocked me, because I didn't think he would be able to understand the prison concept, and what it meant. But I think he had seen it so much, and it became so repetitive, that ... being a young kid, they're a lot smarter these days than we were. He picked up on it, and he just knew it wasn't good. It wasn't pictures of me smiling and pictures of gratitude; it was me walking into a courthouse and people saying derogatory things."
Even tougher was the moment when Vick had to explain to his son what he had done.
"The situation came about when his mom told me that he had been getting teased by some of his friends at school. Which was solely my fault, and a situation that was out of my control. I really didn't have to sit him down and explain — he came to me. And what can you tell a kid who's 4 1/2 years old, who doesn't understand exactly what dogfighting means? Who doesn't understand why his dad's going to jail? He really couldn't understand the explanation in detail, and how deep it was.
"The only thing I could tell him was that daddy was leaving. It was the toughest moment of my life."
Top that with this: As Vick walked into jail for the first time, he had to listen to his young daughter scream for him to come back as she was trying to crawl out of the family car.
More than the lost money, freedom or stardom was the knowledge that he had damaged the people he loved. Vick has turned things around in unprecedented ways. He'll certainly retain his record as the only NFL player to receive two different $100 million contracts from two different teams with a prison sentence in the middle — but the damage can only be repaired, not forgotten. A sober reminder for those still fortunate enough to have not made those kinds of mistakes and done that kind of damage.
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