I can’t wait for Michael Vick to once again stand before the judge and jury. Can’t wait for him to get just what he has coming to him for all of the heinous and egregious acts he’s committed this Fall.
But this is not what you think, not by a long shot.
Released from prison 19 months ago after serving 18 months for his for his role in a dog fighting ring, Vick will soon have another life-altering verdict rendered that will, once again, transform his life most excellently.
At some point this off-season, if labor strife can be avoided by the NFL and its Players Association, some billionaire team owner is going to do what would have been seen as unthinkable some four years after Vick was led — manacled and shackled like an animal — into the foreboding walls of Leavenworth maximum security prison.
If he stays healthy and continues to play at the ridiculously high level he has established in leading the Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) to the top of the NFC East, Vick, who lost it all, will get it all back in the form of an eight-figure contract that is going to guarantee him at least $45 million.
On the field this season, Vick has been nothing short of spectacular, throwing for 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions. A majestic Monday night performance against the Washington Redskins last month saw him become the first player in league history to ever throw for more than 300 yards (330), run for at least 50 (80), pass for four touchdowns and run for two more in a game.
Away from the game he seems to spend every waking moment working with The Humane Society, denouncing his past and encouraging children to not replicate the maladjusted behavior that got him locked up.
His penance is paid. Now it’s time for him to get paid.
This is the point where all the animal activists lose it. They always do whenever Vick — who forfeited most of a $130 million contract after his first team, Atlanta, annulled his deal following his conviction — is talked about in the glowing terms that his transformation on and off the field warrant.
But they are in the minority, not always the best place to be in these United States. Vick, 30, has done damn near the impossible by winning in the court of public opinion. As of Wednesday, Vick leads all quarterbacks in Pro Bowl balloting (729,838), outdistancing Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning by almost 40,000 votes. Sales of Vick’s No. 7 jersey are robust again and the No. 1 slot by the end of the year is not out of the question.
The average life span of a professional football player, according to the National Football League Players Association, is 3 ½ years. So most of the players concussing each other on Sundays are doing so on borrowed time by the time they reach 26. Sports Illustrated reported in 2009 that by the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL players, largely African-American, have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
Vick’s incarceration wiped him out. He is under court order as to how much money he can spend, the result of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He has earned $4.1 million since signing with the Eagles in 2009, but he owes his creditors almost $12 million. Two thirds of every dollar he earns goes to paying his creditors and taxes. He can spend only $4,250 per month on rent and utilities; $1,355 per month for his two kids’ private school tuition; less than $500 per months on a car, and his mother receives $2,500 per months.
There are scrubs in the NBA, where the contracts are guaranteed, that laugh at Vick’s money.
But this won’t be the case for long. “He’s demonstrated to me that either he or Tom Brady is the MVP of this league,” says former NFL return specialist Brian Mitchell, now a commentator with Comcast Sportsnet (D.C.). Mitchell, second only to legendary receiver Jerry Rice in all-time total yardage (23,330) from scrimmage, sat down with Vick for an interview earlier in the season and saw a changed man, both on and off the field.
“He told me that he didn’t think he’d ever play again, now look at him. When he went to Atlanta they didn’t properly coach him and they threw a lot of money his way,” Mitchell said. “He was an athletic freak who relied on his ability to run to get him out of situations, but he wasn’t getting the coaching he’s getting now in Philadelphia.
“I expected to hear a lot about God this and God that when I sat down with him,” Mitchell continued. “I’m all for God, but you hear that so much from athletes. He talked about never, ever wanting to let his grandmother down again. He talked about reaching his potential as a football player and a person.”
In the off-season, Vick and his representatives are going to be focused on maximizing a potential of a different sort of potential. He’s not going to receive another $130 million deal, but he is going to sign one that won’t have him rationing off his paycheck the way he does now.
But he’s got a lot of financial catching up to do and just one last chance to do it. He’s the hot commodity now, the “it” free agent to be.
Get paid, Michael. For you, greed is good.