Is Michael Vick For Real?

After astonishing everyone with the way he played last season, he seems to be all the way back—with a lock on the Eagles quarterback job, a new autobiography and a new multimillion-dollar Nike deal. So why does it still feel like we'll never really know him?

 Same problem with the 10-episode series Vick made with filmmaker Wali Razaqi, which aired on BET in February 2010. The Michael Vick Project was amazingly frank: There was Vick visiting the scene of his crimes, the Virginia property where the dogs were housed. There he was looking up at a bar between trees: “This is where we used to hang the dogs at, man.”

It was eerie. It was as if Michael Vick couldn’t believe it either.

Which only served to deepen the mystery of who he really is. He could stare his old self in the face and say he’d have to live with his mistake, and say that it was wrong, even that it was inhumane—but he never seemed to blink. He didn’t cry. No one was mollified.

Everywhere Wayne Pacelle goes, everyone still wants to know the same thing: Is Michael Vick truly remorseful?

Pacelle always gives the same answer: He can’t look inside a man’s heart and mind. But Vick has been a strong advocate. He’s walking the walk. “Though lately, Mike has slipped a bit,” Pacelle says. He’s busy. He’s got a lot on his plate. Pacelle would like to get him back on a regular public-speaking schedule. Continuing to steer kids away from dogfighting—that’s all the proof he needs from Vick.

The rest of us still want more.


LAST SUMMER, TO MAKE A LITTLE MONEY for his younger brother, Marcus, Vick agreed to a public birthday party, his 30th, at a Virginia club. They charged $50 a head. One of Vick’s dogfighting codefendants, Quanis Phillips, ended up getting shot in the leg in a parking lot, just minutes after Vick and his fiancée, Kijafa Frink, left. Plenty of people called for Vick’s banishment from the NFL, and if Phillips had been badly hurt, or killed, they probably would have gotten their wish.

Instead, Vick seemed to refocus. He hired a North Carolina PR firm to be more proactive in pursuing speaking engagements and other projects, and he came to training camp in great shape. Then, when he got his chance, he proved something he’d claimed all along—that he’d be a better player than ever, even after two years in prison.

When the season was over, the NFL rewarded and spanked Vick almost simultaneously. First, the league gave him the 4,200-square-foot presidential suite at the Pro Bowl in Oahu, the ultimate all-star perk. Then, he was set to host an A-list Super Bowl party in Dallas a week later, until the league, and the Eagles, squelched the idea—was he crazy? Had he forgotten what happened at his birthday bash last summer?

Doors opened to Vick this off-season, even as the NFL faced a labor dispute. He got his first post-prison endorsements. He was in demand for signings, including one in Vegas, where he used to gamble away as much as $15,000 a night. He participated in more camps and helped create a Pop Warner league in Lynchburg, Virginia. He worked on his autobiography, and he’s planning a documentary about his day-to-day life, with an eye toward making it a feature film. By the time I get to Virginia to see him, Vick is on the verge of announcing that Nike has re-signed him. He’s ostensibly close to being all the way back.