Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a two-part conversation with Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick, who resumed his NFL career in 2009 after spending two seasons out of the league following a federal conviction and prison time on charges connected to dogfighting. Part 2 of the conversation appeared Tuesday, May 14.
PHILADELPHIA – Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is at a crossroads. At 32, he's the oldest player on his team, he's essentially on a one-year contract, and he's trying to return to his career-best 2010 level, all while playing for a first-year head coach (Chip Kelly) with no NFL background.
This is the second installment of Jason Cole's two-part conversation with Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick, who resumed his NFL career in 2009 after spending two seasons out of the league following a federal conviction and prison time on charges connected to dogfighting. And Vick couldn't look much happier about his prospects. If you follow his Twitter account, he writes one positive message after another about his offseason training, his golf game and his latest athletic achievement (he dusted teammate LeSean McCoy in a 40-yard dash earlier this month). Twelve years and a lifetime of controversy since he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, Vick seems to have something all the wasted money in the world can't buy:
There's still plenty of confidence, too. It accents his hope that he can still turn his considerable talent into a championship, even if some people wonder if he can simply hold on to his job. Vick sat down with Yahoo! Sports for 30 minutes last week to talk about where he is at this point in his career.
Jason Cole: So you've had a broken leg, broken ribs multiple times, a concussion, banged up your body for years playing this game and then, at age 32, just smoked LeSean in a race. That must be pretty sweet.
Michael Vick: Yeah, that's pretty good. The jubilation I felt that day was unbelievable – not only to myself but for the morale of this team. Nothing against LeSean, but he asked for it.
Cole: He called you out, right? He kept calling you "Old Man."
Vick: Yeah, but I didn't know I could still run that way. I give a lot of credit to our strength and conditioning program, the things Chip has implemented into our training. He's got me doing things and seeing muscles that I hadn't seen in my body for a long time. It's a good time. I'm excited about that.
Cole: I assume there was a pretty good crowd of players and a maybe a lunch or dinner bet on this race.
Vick: It was an enormous crowd. Yeah, there was a wager … lunch, dinner, here and there. The build-up has been going on since the beginning of April. We was going to do it about three weeks ago, but a couple of my teammates called it off. Then, I was conservative about it because I didn't want something to happen. Just the fact of it being sort of immature and then if I tore a hamstring or LeSean tore up a hamstring, Chip's going to be mad at me, so I didn't want that. (But) it got to a point where I couldn't take it anymore.
Cole: Didn't he say three years ago you couldn't dunk, either?
Vick: Three years ago he said I couldn't dunk, and I dunked. I still can. I did it three weeks ago. Two hands. In transition, got a nice pass in transition from (fellow quarterback) Nick (Foles). … Nobody really expected it. I turned around and people's eyes were like wide and there were a lot of oohs and ahs.
Cole: Full court?
Vick: We played half court the first day but it was kind of boring. We needed something a little more intriguing.
[Related: Did Vick cheat in race against McCoy?]
Cole: So I get the race and the basketball thing. But explain this to me, Michael Vick plays golf now? I asked this because when you played in Atlanta, the best description I ever heard was that (watching you play football) was like a James Brown concert. Nobody knew exactly what was going to happen, but it was going to be a total show. It was going to be like something you never, ever saw before. Now, I'm trying to juxtapose that in my head with a golf course. That doesn't seem to fit.
Vick: It doesn't correlate, but I will say playing golf and the ambition that I have in playing golf to get better has helped me with my decision-making, it's helped me to become more relaxed and a more poised person. I think it's a credit to just going out there and having a sense of peace, being able to think freely and clearly. At the same time, play a game that I think if I wasn't a football player, I'd try to play full-time. But I couldn't do it, it's too hard. I love the challenge and the challenge of golf is almost like the challenge of each and every down in football. You don't know what you're going to get. You don't know how the play is going to turn out, just like you don't know where that golf ball is going to go. You've just got to believe in it.
Cole: When did you start playing?
Vick: I started playing in 2006. … Now I'm shooting in the low 80s.
Cole: You got married last year. How's that going?
Cole: Different than when you guys were just dating?
Vick: A little more intense, more serious, more responsibility. But at the same time, it's the same – nothing has changed. That's a credit to her.
Cole: How long have you been together?
Vick: Twelve years, ever since I've been a rookie. I met her in Virginia.
Cole: So here you are going into a really important season. You've redone your contract, you're coming off a couple years of injuries, not getting to play consistently. Not just injuries to you, injuries around you that affect how you play. You got a new coach with no NFL background with this offense that a lot of NFL people question, rightly or wrongly. Why are you so seemingly geeked up about this?
Vick: I'm excited because I know football. I think playing in this league for 11 years I've seen multiple offenses, starting out with Dan Reeves and then playing in the West Coast system for numerous years. Even when Bobby Petrino came from college and his offense, I think, was very innovative. Not to the magnitude of this one we're in now, but at the same time he did a lot of different things that I think was very intricate. I never had a chance to run it but I can remember (during offseason practice in 2007) just being excited about what we were doing. I remember Coach Petrino telling our quarterback coach he thought I was going to be the MVP of the league that year.
Now, (Coach Kelly's offense is) refreshing, it's new. I think it suits all of our quarterbacks. I think it suits our team for what we have in place as far as talent. The things that we've been asked to do and the way we've been asked to go about being professionals and the transition of doing the right things and taking care of our bodies has been outstanding. I've never engaged in this type of nutrition and conditioning and weightlifting. It has been great because it's different than what I've done in the past. Being in the league 11 years, a lot of guys don't like to lift weights or you may not lift as heavy. We have our days where we go in and we work out and we complain. The guys aren't excited about it but we do it. At the end, you look in the mirror and you're like, damn.
Cole: Looks good?
Vick: Now, that still has to transition over to the actual playing field, but at least you know you're on the right track. That's all you wanted was a little optimism.
Cole: We talked about Petrino a little bit. Don't include Kelly in this. You never played in a game for Petrino, but you were around him for awhile. Which of those four NFL guys (Petrino, Dan Reeves, Jim Mora and Andy Reid) did you enjoy the most?
Vick: I have such a good relationship with all my head coaches. I enjoyed everybody for their own reasons and I can give you a brief description why. A Dan Reeves was just a lovable man, just a lovable guy. Jim Mora was a very personable coach. He was almost like one of the guys in the locker room and I had fun with him. Coach Petrino was a little tough but that's what I needed at the time. Coach Andy Reid just helped me make the transition into being a quarterback: footwork, timing and how to throw. He just made me a complete quarterback. The time I spent with him was invaluable. Now, when I throw a ball I look down and I want to make sure my body is in the correct position to throw. I just enjoyed them and loved them and all of them were great.
Cole: Reeves was also pretty tough on you early.
Vick: Yeah, but like I say, it was out of love, just genuine love that he had for me being a young kid and wanting to see me (succeed). I remember there was a time that we had an argument on the sideline in my second year because I thought that (Reeves) was kind of being hard with me, but I knew what I could do. From that point on, it changed our whole season. It wasn't like we had three or four encounters, it was one encounter that we had and I just had to let him know to have confidence in me. From that point he was like a sponge to me.
Cole: Your career has been marked by all these incredible highs in terms of individual performance and probably some of the most incredible lows anybody could ever experience. How did you navigate all of that emotionally? This sport is already like being shot from a cannon on Sunday afternoon. You've obviously gone way beyond that and somehow arrived at this very optimistic place.
Vick: I can say I've been a part of the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows in this game. Being on both sides of the fence, now I can look back on everything and enjoy every day that I have now in the present. Because of that, all the trials and tribulations, all of the jubilations and the experience, I can just enjoy football each and every day now. Regardless of what the media may say, regardless of what people around me may say, deep down in my heart I'm satisfied. I think when you're satisfied and still want more, I think it gives you the ambition to go out and try to achieve what you set out to achieve from the beginning. That's winning the Super Bowl at some point or another. I look at other guys and it happens early for some guys, it happens later for some guys. I understand in this sport it has to be the right situation, ideally, in all three phases of the game. Me being able to understand that and accept that and know that that's what it takes, but you've got to be able to do your part just keeps me optimistic.
Cole: Did you have to go through all of this to get control of yourself?
Vick: Yeah, I mean, I always tell everybody if I had to change anything about my life, I said (it would be) the hard work. … It wouldn't be prison. I wouldn't change it. I may have changed my actions prior to prison. It would have never led to that. The experience that made me the person I am today, where I can sit here and communicate with you on a level that I wouldn't have been able to in 2003 or 2004, I wouldn't change that. That means more to me than going out and throwing touchdown passes. I think communication is important and being able to conduct yourself is important. Learning how to work is important and enjoying life and what you do is important. I learned some valuable lessons and sometimes I asked God, why did I have to go through that to get this. I look at myself now and I think I'm sort of rejuvenated and I feel something good is happening. I don't know if it's going to happen now or in the next five months, but I believe and that's the important thing.
Cole: So you think we're about to see the best of you.
Vick: I hope so, but see that's the unknown, that's the exciting part. You don't know what you're going to get out of yourself. You don't know what you're going to get out of your teammates. … You only know what you put into it and I know every year that I work hard, I get a lot out of it and I will say I worked harder this year than I did in a long time. Part of it is because it's natural, it's normal for human beings to get complacent sometimes. I feel like you got it and you know it, and that's when you get smacked in the face. I hate to say that I felt that way the last couple of years but I felt like I was growing. But you've still got to work hard, there's no substitute for hard work.
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