By Art Stricklin
MIAMI (BP)–God’s redemptive power in his once-troubled life was Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s theme at the annual Super Bowl Breakfast Saturday morning.
Speaking publicly for the first time as an adult about his faith in Jesus Christ, Vick said God was again the first priority in his life. He also shared for the first time about the role former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy played in his restoration with God.
“I feel I’m in the back seat now and God is in the front,” Vick told Baptist Press in a post-breakfast interview. “Five months ago I was worried with what was going to happen (with the NFL), but now I’m more at peace. God has taken it over. I don’t have to worry about being dynamic. God is in control of that.”
Vick spoke standing beside Dungy before 1,100 fans, in his first-ever retelling of the role faith played in his life at the maximum security prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.
“I wanted a chance to redeem myself,” he said. “Pre-incarceration it was all about me. When I got to prison, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. The one thing I could rely on was my faith in God.”
While he has a peace from God in his life and doesn’t fear his future on the field or off, Vick said he is still haunted by his deeds of his previous life.
“The toughest thing was being away from my kids (ages 7, 5 and 2). I missed 18 months of their life that I will never get back.
“They still have questions [about] why I went away for so long and those are questions they shouldn’t have to ask.”
Dungy, a longtime supporter of the annual breakfast sponsored by Athletes in Action and Campus Crusade for Christ, said organizers of this year’s banquet asked him if Vick would be willing to share his faith publically one day before Super Bowl XLIV.
“I thought it was a good venue for Michael and he agreed. People know about my faith, but they needed to hear about Michael’s. I thought he did a very good job.”
Vick said he became a Christian in high school in Virginia and began reading his Bible, but the more success he achieved on the football field, the less he needed God.
“I was so self-centered, I forgot about the Lord,” he admitted.
After going to jail for bankrolling a dog fighting ring, and losing almost every material thing in his life, Vick said he realized how far he had fallen.
“I got back to my roots. The only thing I could do in prison was fall back on God. I wanted to do things right, that I didn’t do the first time.”
Dungy came into Vick’s life in his final months in the federal prison — Vick’s lawyer was from the same hometown as Dungy’s wife. Dungy visited Vick in Leavenworth and began to help him put his life back together and to help him restore his walk with God.
They still keep in weekly contact and Dungy helped Vick get a backup job with the Eagles this season.
Vick admitted his first year out of prison and back in the NFL was a struggle.
“I thought the transition would be easy, but it was a hard for me. I did things I never thought I would do, like studying and working by myself. I stayed close to my faith, constant in prayer and close to Tony’s calls and texts.”
While the Eagles hold his NFL rights for another year, his football future, once unlimited, is far from certain. Vick said he’s determined to leave his life in God’s hands and leave the results up to Him.
“The main thing is I don’t want to disappoint God,” he said.
“I don’t want to disappoint my family, Tony or Roger (NFL commissioner Goddell),” he added. “God has blessed with a second chance that is something I will value forever. I don’t want to let Him down.”
After Vick’s emotional appearance, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner accepted the AIA Bart Starr Award, annually given to the player who exhibits character and leadership on and off the field.
“These awards are simply a platform to give glory to God in my life,” Warner said.
He explained his own personal transformation in his life, shared the plan of salvation and invited people to accept Jesus Christ into their life for the first time.
Among the people at the breakfast were Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell and several members of his team, who briefly talked about the importance of faith in their lives.
Art Stricklin is a sports correspondent for Baptist Press.