Michael Vick's Rise and Fall...and Rise Again in the NFL

Dave AuerbachContributor ISeptember 21, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - AUGUST 13:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles rolls out to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during their preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 13, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Any truly great man can ruin a lifetime of work with one bad decision.  Its happened multiple times in history.  Some of the world's most powerful leaders have made one crucial mistake and the snowball effect takes off. Before they know it, they are left with nothing more than a pile of rubble and a shell-shocked effect of complete disbelief.

It takes an even greater man to pick up the pieces and start building it all over again.  

Michael Vick was the face of the NFL at one point.  His mobility and speed was already a big hit in the football world from his days at Virginia Tech.  His standout performance as a redshirt Freshman as a Hokie brought VT to a National Championship appearance against Florida State.  Although they lost, the college world knew exactly who Michael Vick was, and the NFL did as well.

Vick's early on performance in college started his huge claim to fame.  Along with leading the NCAA in passing efficiency (He's 3rd all time in NCAA history with 180.4), he was voted 3rd in Heisman voting his freshman year.  It earned him a cover spot of the ESPN Magazine and moved him into the national spotlight and made a lot of the world wonder which team in the NFL was going to get him.  

The Atlanta Falcons sacrificed their own 5th overall pick plus a 3rd round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft to get up to No. 1 overall to get Vick.  He would become the first black athlete to ever be drafted No. 1 overall.  He would be the face of the Falcons for years to come and give a team that recently started falling apart some new hope again.

Vick's success with the Falcons would start mainly in his second season, when he started showing his athleticism on the Pro level.  He would go on to set multiple rushing records for QB's, including most yards in a single game (173) against Minnesota, the most yards in a single season (1,039) and most rushing games by a QB with over 100 yards (7).   He gave the Falcons a huge boost and kept them in the playoff mix over a few different seasons.  He also helped the Falcons be the first team to go into Lambeau Field and hand Green Bay a playoff loss at home.  Vick's stellar performance would get him voted to the Pro Bowl in 2002, 2004, and 2005.  He also won an ESPY award for best NFL Player in 2003 by ESPN voters.  

Vick's success would be richly rewarded with a ten year, $130 million dollar contract in January of 2005.  This gave Vick the richest potential contract in NFL history at that point, surpassing Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb's contract which both exceeded $100 million.  But with such great success, one bad move can have it all come crumbling down around you.

Vick was convicted on federal charges in relation to his association with Bad Newz Kennels, a property he was an owner of that ran an illegal dog fighting ring in Virginia, where Vick was originally from.  This would prompt a series of events that would lead to Vick's indefinite suspension, imprisonment, and what looked like the possibility of the end of his career.  Most all of Vick's assets were all seized to repay many debtors, including the Atlanta Falcons for $20 million of his $37 million dollar signing bonus.  During Vick's imprisonments, his lavish lifestyle caught up and his legal team was forced to file bankruptcy for the QB.

Following his entire falling and looking at a destroyed financial empire, Vick was lucky enough to be given another chance after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Vick would be allowed to play again in the NFL after a 3 game suspension.  The Eagles signed Vick to a conditional 2 year contract, with the option to release him after 1 year if it looked to be a failed move.  With Donovan McNabb being traded to the Redskins before the start of the 2010 season, Vick's second year option was picked up and he moved up to 2nd on the depth chart behind future starter, Kevin Kolb

On Sept. 21, Vick was named the team's definite starter for the Philadelphia Eagles after his performance against the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers to start the 2010 season.  His accuracy looks better than it has ever been since his college days.  His mobility looks similar to his form back in the 2005 season, and he's got more motivation to play now than he ever has before.  He's out to prove that he still belongs to be one of the top QB's in the league like he was to start his career.  While he's still a while away from getting back to the top of the mountain like he was in the early 2000's, he's making all the right moves to looking like the old Michael Vick and getting the public opinion back on his side.  

I don't want people thinking that I believe that Vick is the best QB ever.  It just shows a lot about his character to completely be wiped out, have your reputation ruined, and end up in some ways like Public Enemy #1.  A lot of guys in his situation typically just ball up and fall into their own demise and never recover.  Instead of struggling, he worked even harder to get himself back into the same or better shape than his Pro Bowl season of earlier, face the public and his flaws,and work to become a better person in every phase of his life and make right for all the wrongs he's caused.  It takes so much to accept what you've done wrong in life and do your best to make it right.  He's had a great supporting cast around him since his release, but he didn't relapse back into his life of old and get back into trouble once he was free. 

I don't believe he is the future for the Eagles, however the rest of the NFL is watching very closely.  The Eagles took the initial PR barrage for signing someone that is widely hated by animal lovers everywhere.  Most teams, seeing how well he's playing, will be more inclined to take a chance on him now that he's been stripped of all the ego, the bad boy lifestyle, everything that led to his downfall.  With so many teams out there that desperately need a starting QB, it's a pretty safe assumption that he'll be a very highly, if not the most highly coveted QB on the Free Agency market if the Eagles decide not to build their future around him.

The easiest way to prove to everyone he's worth it?  In the words of the old Raiders motto, "Just Win Baby!"