Fans started to line up outside Modell’s on Cottman Ave. at 9:45 a.m. for an autograph session with Michael Vick that didn’t start until around 1 p.m. The QB was there to promote his new line of performance wear called “V7,” flanked by his two boisterous daughters and his brand-new wife, Kijafa, as fans tripped over themselves as if approaching the royal family.
It is a striking development when put into context, this man who was once so reviled and so controversial that the slightest of moves was cause for national debate, if not outrage. Now here he is starting his own clothing line, and nobody is batting an eye.
As one of his confidants expressed at Wednesday’s event, this is a milestone moment for a player who has had his share. No protestors or columns damning the promotion of an ex-felon. Just adoration and acceptance for a once-polarizing figure.
“I am very thankful that I have the fan appreciation and support, and I do things like this to show them in return that I have just as much respect and love for them,” says Vick, who is giving a part of the proceeds to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia. “I’m just trying to be the best ambassador I can be, on and off the field.”
It is particularly remarkable that this public reconciliation is happening in Philadelphia, which may show brotherly love, but only of the “tough” variety. Vick has managed to carve his niche into a wall that was initially built to reject his presence in the community.
“I don’t think I could have landed in a better city,” says Vick. “It’s one of those situations where you ask God ‘Why?’ in the beginning because you know your potential and you know what you can do, but you see everything come around full circle three or four years later. You can’t see it right then and there, but I see it now.
“It would mean so much for me to give this city what they deserve, and that’s why I work as hard as I’ve been working; that’s why my focus is different now. I’m just a totally different person, a totally different quarterback right now. I’m excited. I’ve never been this excited for a season.”
Judging by the fan reception, the feeling is mutual. Almost everyone who approached Vick tried to push the envelope: Maybe I can get just one more thing signed? How about a handshake? A picture? A hug? This is the year, they’d say. I can just feel it. One lady was so overcome that she began hollering in Vick’s direction as soon as she got into earshot.
“I’m going to fall over, oh my goodness,” she cried. Vick played it up, and when he got an, “I love you Mike,” he responded, “I love you, too” to the entertainment of the crowd.
It was all love. And when you reflect on a time not too long gone by, that is astounding all in itself.