Honesty is something Vick talks about a lot. It’s what released him from his former life. “If you’re doing the right things,” Reid says, “99 percent of the time, it’s easy to explain. When Michael came out of jail, he had a clean slate at that moment—we talked about that. I appreciate his honesty.”
“My way of getting out of certain situations is to tell the truth,” Vick says.
All this is not exactly the conversation a reporter usually has with an athlete. Even more surprising: This is Michael Vick, the dog abuser?
AT THE END OF LAST SEASON, Vick called a meeting in Hampton of various people who were doing projects with him—or claiming to. That included old buddies from the neighborhood, cousins, lawyers, a Web designer, producer Wali Razaqi. About 15 people. He welcomed them, then had them say what they had in mind for Michael Vick.
He sat back and listened. It only took a moment for the squabbling to begin. Somebody had an idea for a clothing line—no, that idea was already in the works. Others resented having to explain their business. It was a brilliant move, forcing those whispering they could do X and Y and Z to say it in front of them all, to show what they really had. A couple people walked out. The 15 was pared almost in half—Vick had cleaned house without firing anybody.
And the endorsements began to come back. For companies nobody knows about, having Vick as a rep is pure gold, even if it means getting a few nasty e-mails in protest. “I’m a new brand,” says Michael DiSabato of Lutte Licensing Group, a Columbus, Ohio, company that makes titanium wristbands. “It’s just me, not Nike. We all deserve a second chance. There was some negativity, but this guy moves the needle.”
Meanwhile, Vick scheduled an Oprah appearance, but then backed out. The New York Post wrote that the new owner of one of Vick’s abused dogs was going to be on the show, too—though Vick claims to know nothing about that. Regardless, can you imagine what Oprah, and Oprah’s studio audience, and Oprah’s TV viewers, would want from Michael Vick? He would need to consider his former self with horror, as an open wound in his soul. Exactly what he doesn’t do. At least not in public.
That gaffe—saying yes to Oprah and then backing out—played out as if he had something to hide, but this is the fine line he now walks. At Hampton University, Vick and I had to drive from the stadium to the cafeteria so that he could eat and I could ask more questions. When he realized I was about to get in one of his cars—he had two SUVs, for himself and his assistants—he said, “I don’t let reporters in my car. It’s nothing personal.” As I jogged to my rental on the other side of the stadium, wondering what he might be worried about me seeing, I realized his risk. All it would take would be, say, one lousy dope roach dropped on the center console by his right-hand guy a couple nights ago, and if I happened to spy it …