Project 21’s Dillard an Early Advocate for Vick’s “Comeback” Award

P21CobyDillardBack in January, Project 21 member Coby Dillard wrote a New Visions Commentary that suggested Michael Vick, the National Football League quarterback currently playing with the Philadelphia Eagles who was imprisoned for his role in gambling and the deaths of dogs in a dogfighting ring, had both a professional and personal turnaround.

Vick’s apparent redemption and his record on the field, Coby said, should earn Vick the NFL “Comeback of the Year” award.

In his New Visions Commentary, Coby wrote:

Under any circumstances, Vick’s performance this past season with the Eagles would be another notch in the belt of a great quarterback. Under his circumstances, Vick’s performance was exceptional.  Vick the football star returned, evolving into something few would have thought possible when he left prison.

Vick changed — from the way he passed in the pocket to the way he escaped tackles. Vick was a key factor in the Eagles making it to the playoffs.

More important than Vick’s maturation as a quarterback, however, was his maturation as a man.

No one condones what Vick did off the field. But that lesson appears to have been learned.  There’s nothing like going from the penthouse to the jailhouse to the bankruptcy courthouse to teach it.

Vick seems humbled, more mature and more aware of those with whom he keeps company.  For most, that lesson comes easily.  It was different for the young man from the projects of Newport News.

The Bible says that as a child becomes a man he puts away childish things.  Sometimes, those things instead become best friends.  It’s a painful thing Vick experienced, but his post-prison behavior seems to indicate he’s learned.

If nothing else is taken from Vick’s story, let it be the example of the success of a man determined not to be another recidivist.  Let it be of a man determined to show that there’s more to a man than the “felon” label — there’s also “role model” and “advocate.”

In our society, those titles carry a lot more weight than the ones Vick could ever earn on the gridiron.

Each year, there is an award given to the NFL player who improves the most from one season to the next.  It’s called the “Comeback Player of the Year” award.

Under any circumstances, Michael Vick’s statistics alone would merit his consideration for the award.  Under his circumstances, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get it.

On February 5, the Associated Press awarded Vick with the “Comeback of the Year” honor.  According to the AP report:

In 2009, Michael Vick was quarterback on 53 snaps and was primarily used as a specialist, used on designed rushing plays 41.5 percent of the time.  In 2010, Vick did most of his running on scrambles and the majority of his snaps were pass plays.  The Eagles averaged 4.2 yards a play last season with Vick at quarterback compared to 6.6 yards this season.

He also displayed the kind of reformation away from the game that impressed a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.  Vick received 29.5 votes, easily beating Seattle receiver Mike Williams, who got eight.

Coach Andy Reid, who dealt with family problems when two of his sons were arrested on drug charges, believed Vick could change around his life.  Few of Vick’s supporters have been as staunchly behind him as Reid.

“He had a plan and he stuck to that, both on and off the field,” Reid said.  “He knew certain things he wanted to get better at and he was open to the coaching on it, and he got himself back into shape… So, he did a great job with the football part of it.

“And then he spends a tremendous amount of time in the public, in particular on his days off… speaking and doing the best he can to right the wrong.  You can never erase that, but you can sure help change others from falling into that same problem.”

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