Beginning on Tuesday, Black Entertainment Television will broadcast the first of a 10-part series featuring . The series is called
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, was filmed between August 2009 and January 2010. The series will feature interviews with Vick, his fiancée and members of her family, and friends in a variety of settings, ranging from Vick’s home to the neighborhood where he was raised and even the home he built that housed his enterprise.
There are two conclusions after watching 30 minutes of the first segment of the series. Those who disliked Vick before will probably feel the same way after watching this. But Vick’s supporters will have a deeper understanding of the man beneath the uniform.
“There’ll always be a divot in my career because of what I’ve been through,” he said during an interview Friday. “Hopefully, in 10 years people can overlook that. I can’t say they will, I can’t say they won’t. All I can do is try to make them forgive. I know they won’t forget.”
Vick was the of the 2001 draft, and he played for the Atlanta Falcons for six seasons. In April 2007, Vick was implicated in an illegal interstate dogfighting ring. That August he pleaded guilty to federal felony charges and served 23 months in prison. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2008. After he served his sentence, he signed with the and was reinstated in Week 3 of the 2009 N.F.L. season.
What was eye-opening, even for those who objected to the government’s zealous prosecution, was the depth of Vick’s involvement in dogfighting. This wasn’t something he just tumbled into when he reached the N.F.L.
Vick cultivated a love for dogfighting when he was a teenager in Newport News, Va. He kept the passion through high school and then while he was a star at . When he was with the Falcons, he left Atlanta every Tuesday to oversee what had become a sprawling empire.
“Every phase of my life, we always did it on a small scale,” he said in describing his start in dogfighting. “It’s something I never got away from. Once I got some money, we just took it to a totally different level. It was very surprising to me even still now that we took it that far.”
Vick has taken the blame and has also taken pains not to make excuses for what he did. But when does he stop apologizing? He has served his time and lost both his fortune and his status as the N.F.L.’s most exciting player.
“I told myself that the point that I stop apologizing is after the series is over,” he said. “I’ve apologized on numerous occasions, I told the truth about everything that happened. The documentary is it. Once it airs, I won’t speak about the dogfighting issue anymore, other than when I’m working with the Humane Society. Then I can focus on football.”
The 29-year-old Vick had a successful comeback in Philadelphia. He said he’d love to stay with the Eagles, but he understands that may not be an option. An ideal landing spot, he said, would be in Washington.
“Two hours away from home, it’s my hometown team,” he said. “That would be great. But I just want to be behind the center next year to see where I am, to see if I still have it. I know I do. I want the opposition to feel like they felt a couple years ago.”
Vick will be in Miami with his family next week attending the . He watched the last two Super Bowls in prison, the ultimate surreal experience. In January 2005, to the N.F.C. championship game.
“You just sit back and you’re like, ‘Man, I had a chance to actually make it to the Super Bowl,’ ” he said. “You want to be out there, you know what’s going on, you know people are having a great time out in the city. You want to be a part of it, you want to be out there.
“Man, it’s depressing.”
For the next 10 weeks, through the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics, a national audience will be able to watch Michael Vick deconstruct his steep fall and attempt to reconstruct his image. This is a compelling story of how fame, celebrity and vanity became a wild fire that nearly consumed an entire family.
“I know that people who may hate me may not even watch it,” Vick said. “But I did it because I felt that I can help save a lot of our kids by showing them what I went through. I want them to understand that you’ve got to start dreaming when you’re young, but also you got to have a plan. You can’t put yourself in vulnerable positions, you have to value every opportunity that you get in life.”
Vick is just beginning to appreciate his own lesson.