As an Atlanta native, I never saw Michael Vick, the former Falcons quarterback, making a comeback. In 2007, Vick was convicted of running a dog fighting ring and training pit bulls for fighting purposes. Avid football fans all over the U.S. were disgusted with his behavior. How could a man so powerful and wealthy practice such cruelty?
Lately, however, Vick seems to be one of the NFL’s most exciting talents. After his release in 2009, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a third-string quarterback. Now he is leading the Eagles, possibly to its first Super Bowl title. How has Vick’s image changed from convicted felon to star athlete within a year? The answer is simple: great PR tactics.
In a 2009 article on NPR’s website, PR professionals suggested Vick implement a three-step process in order to rehabilitate his image. Vick needed to show genuine regret for his actions, avoid constant media attention and prove he changed his ways. To his credit, Vick and his PR team followed this process in perfect form.
Vick returned to the spotlight on Aug. 19, 2009, with his first interview on “60 Minutes”. In this interview, Vick admitted his faults and seemed open and honest with the public.
“When I was in prison, I was disgusted, you know, because of what I let happen to those animals,” Vick said.
He also addressed his faulty reputation as a player.
“I was lazy,” Vick said. “Last guy in the building, first guy out. I know that, I hear everything people say. And that hurt me when I heard that, but I knew it was true.”
After the “60 Minutes” interview, Vick began the daunting task of rehabilitating his off- and on-field reputations. Off the field, Vick volunteered with the Humane Society of the United States and spoke at schools. Vick said he participated in these activities because he believed many destructive behaviors can be prevented. Although giving back to the community was important, Vick realized repairing his on-field image would be more difficult.
“This league is about going out and showing improvement, and, you know, basically being a man of your word, and not just talking but doing,” Vick said in a recent interview. “That’s what I try to do since I’ve been here, you know, just try to improve each and every time I’ve got an opportunity.”
Vick’s new work ethic saved him from failure. Over the past 15 months, Vick developed the reputation as a hard worker, with coaches reporting he is continually the last player to leave the field after practice. With his new outlook, everything fell into place for the star quarterback. Last spring, Vick was promoted to second-string when the Eagles unexpectedly traded Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. His role as back-up quarterback quickly changed when Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion during the first game of the season. Now, the convicted felon is giving the Eagles a season no one expected.
On the Nov. 15 game against the Redskins, Vick completed 20 of 28 passes for 333 yards and scored four touchdowns. The Eagles crushed the Redskins with a 59-28 victory. The Pro Football Hall of Fame requested the jersey Vick wore during the seemingly flawless game.
Maybe players with suffering reputations should follow in Vick’s footsteps. It is important to be honest and open, but it is also imperative to focus on the path ahead. Players shouldn’t continuously focus on their faults or appear in the media constantly. If anything, they should show their fans they are working toward the goal of victory.
By Libby Page