In a National Football League season that has repeatedly intrigued with the unexpected, perhaps nothing has been so astonishing as Vick’s rehabilitation both as a person and a football player.
He is on the short list of most valuable player candidates, and he has been equally lauded for what is by all reports earnest contrition for his part in running an illegal dog-fighting ring.
Now, Vick has received indirect praise from President Obama. In his column on Sports Illustrated’s website Monday, Peter King reports that Mr. Obama called Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to thank the team for giving Vick a chance.
Obama was "passionate about it," Mr. Lurie told Mr. King, adding that the president said "it's never a level playing field for prisoners when they get out of jail. And he was happy that we did something on such a national stage that showed our faith in giving someone a second chance after such a major downfall.''
Vick served 18 months in federal prison, and there was only tepid interest among NFL teams when he was released before last season. When the Eagles signed him in 2009, it was to backup starting quarterback Donovan McNabb, who vowed to mentor Vick.
Even this year, when McNabb left for Washington, promising youngster Kevin Kolb was named the Eagles' starting quarterback, but Vick did not complain. To the contrary, he and Kolb reportedly struck up a cordial friendship, and all Vick's comments about the situation were unequivocal in their support for Kolb.
It was not until Kolb was injured early in the season that Vick got his chance, and his performances have turned the Eagles from a team scrapping to make the playoffs into a legitimate threat to reach the Super Bowl.
Vick credits his ordeal with making him a better player. Arguably the best running quarterback in the history of the NFL, Vick has now added patience and better passing to his repertoire, making him a complete pro quarterback for the first time in his career.
Obama’s comments come at a time when Vick is stressing the sincerity of his reformation. He recently said he would like to own a dog. He is currently prohibited from owning a dog, given that dogs in his fighting ring were maimed and killed.