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From the Author:
"I want to be remembered as a guy who never gave up, whether with my family, out on the football field, in a prison cell, or playing one-on-one basketball with somebody in the neighborhood. Standing firm in God always, pushing through, even in my darkest moments."
“Finally Free tells an amazing story. It’s not all pretty, but it’s real. This book will let you know why I’m so proud of Michael Vick and honored to call him a friend.”
—Tony Dungy, Former NFL head coach for the Indianapolis Colts
“I want to be remembered as a guy who never gave up, whether with my family, out on the football field, in a prison cell, or playing one-on-one basketball with somebody in the neighborhood. Standing firm in God always, pushing through, even in my darkest moments.”
In the Beginning
"The beginning of my love for football goes back to when I was seven years old."
I've always been a bird.
I went from the ground—a foundation of faith and family that positioned me for success ... to the air—a dangerous and selfish rise that took me higher and higher in flight ... to a crash—a wounding yet deserved fall that took me lower and lower ... to the cage—a humbling and desolate state that helped me return to the ground, rediscover my foundation, long for redemption, and ignite a strong desire to change.
To change and rise again ...
* * *
After everything I have been through in my life and football career, it was surreal to be back in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl in January 2011.
I sat in the middle of the bus that was transporting the NFC team from our hotel to the practice field, surrounded by three star players from my former team, the Atlanta Falcons. Wide receiver Roddy White was to my back right, quarterback Matt Ryan was directly across the aisle from me, and running back Michael Turner sat directly in front of me. We talked some, but mostly Matt and Roddy kidded Michael Turner about his eating.
It was so ironic that we were sitting together. I spent six years with the Falcons, making the Pro Bowl on three occasions, and even though my time with them didn't end anything like I or anyone else expected, I still have a fondness in my heart for that organization. I forever will.
Once the bus arrived, I was amazed at the scene that was in front of me. Fans packed the path to the practice field. I saw reporters, cameras, and banners welcoming everyone to the 2011 Pro Bowl—the all-star game that follows each NFL season. It's one of the greatest honors in the league to be selected for the game, especially since your peers and fans both get to vote.
The sun was shining bright that day. It was beautiful. Everyone I looked at had a smile on his or her face, especially the children. They wanted to get helmets and other items signed. I tried to sign as many autographs as possible, but the security officers assigned to us kept ushering me toward the field.
It was a long but incredible walk. I felt such a sense of accomplishment as I looked at all the great players around me. I felt a sense of belonging. It was so rewarding to feel like I was back on the right track.
I kept having flashbacks, though.
I thought about my two long years away from football, when I didn't know if I would ever make it back to the Pro Bowl.
I thought about how hard I worked to get there again and the incredible opportunity the Philadelphia Eagles gave me with a second chance to play in the NFL.
And I thought about my childhood years, when I first dreamed of playing in the NFL. Back then, in the beginning, being in a place like Hawaii was beyond my wildest imagination.
* * *
I grew up in the Ridley Circle housing project—unit 667—in the crime-infested East End of Newport News, Virginia. Back then, I was known as "Ookie," a nickname that was given to me by my Aunt Tina shortly after I was born, on June 26, 1980.
The environment I grew up in played a tremendous part in my youth. There were consequences—both good and bad—that I had to deal with.
Newport News is sometimes referred to as "NewportNam"—a word twist on "Vietnam." The inference is that Newport News is a jungle-like war zone with pitfalls and traps at every turn. You just never knew when a peaceful situation would turn into a violent, volatile situation.
In and around where I lived, anyone could get shot at any time or place. Anyone could be the main target. And anyone could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught in the line of fire. It was rough for the people who lived there.
One summer growing up, I heard a gunshot every night. I vividly remember being awakened one night by a sharp POP. I jumped up. The shot was so loud and clear because we had to sleep with the windows open; it was really hot, and we didn't have central air upstairs.
You reach a point where you become immune to the violence and crime; the sounds of gunfire became white noise that faded into the background of our lives. It was common to see guys walking through the neighborhood with shotguns and rifles. They were either headed to an altercation, or would start one because they were carrying guns and acting "tough." You'd see fights all the time—fistfights, and even domestic family fights. It was crazy in that area—a living environment many people can't comprehend.
You had to watch your back and be cautious of where you were. So many people—good people—fell victim because they weren't aware of their surroundings.
One of those victims was a close friend of mine, Abdullah McClane, who was known to the rest of us simply as "Peahead." As just a young teen, he was shot walking near the Food Tiger store on Hampton Avenue.
I was crushed when I heard about it. Before, I had been immune to the gunfire, but now it had real consequences. My world changed that day. I lost my friend.
We had been teammates in Pop Warner football, and the plan was for us to play together all the way up through high school. Peahead was going to be the quarterback, and I was going to be the running back. He was good—better than me, actually. And, coincidentally, he was a left-hander too, just like me.
But those were my surroundings. Anything could happen to anyone at any time. It's what we all dealt with on a daily basis and why I wanted to escape from Ridley Circle.
My escape came through football.
* * *
Ironically, my roots in football come from the Washington Redskins—the same Washington Redskins that I would play my career game against in 2010, cementing my return to professional football. Sometimes it's the moments that take us back to the beginning that are most important.
The beginning of my love for football goes back to when I was seven years old. I was spending time with my grandmother, Caletha Vick. I never knew anything about the game until one Sunday afternoon when she turned on the television because the Redskins were playing. They were my Uncle Casey's favorite team—and my grandmother's favorite too.
After watching the game with them, I was hooked; my fascination grew deep inside me. At that moment, I knew playing in the NFL was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
"I'm going to play professional football someday," I told her.
"Well, you have to learn how to play then," I remember her saying. "Ask your uncle because he played in high school."
From that day on, I carried a football with me everywhere I went in the neighborhood. As time went by, I played more and more, getting better every day.
I was highly competitive, a trait that was developed not only in Pop Warner but also in impromptu games and scrimmages that broke out on the street before school began.
We used to play tackle against other neighborhoods—against guys who were bigger and stronger than us. We were little guys, but hey, we wanted the older guys in our neighborhood to view us as good football players, and we wanted to be the best. So by playing against the bigger kids, we had to work harder and be faster. It was great practice.
We played tag football in the street in the mornings before our school bus arrived and were usually sweating when we climbed on the bus. It was how everyone honed their skills. It was why we were so much better than the other youth league football teams we played. We were practicing all the time.
My first position for the Boys & Girls Club Spartans was tight end, which I didn't like. I was a good receiver, but the problem was that I also had to block, and I didn't like contact. I didn't even know what I was doing. The whole time I played in games that year, I was looking at my mom on the sideline and was really ready to go home. The next season, however, I was moved to quarterback, and on my very first pass I threw a touchdown.
I didn't even see what happened because I was so short. I dropped back and threw the ball as far as I could to my receiver, Corey Barnes. The next thing I knew, the coaches started jumping up and down, and people started grabbing me. I was so happy and excited. I loved that feeling. I chased that feeling.
* * *
One thing I can certainly say about my youth is that it wasn't difficult to find trouble in the streets.
I wasn't a troublemaker per se, but I hung around with guys who caused a good deal of trouble. They were constantly getting into fights, stealing bikes, and taking stuff from people's yards and local stores. My childhood best friend, Jamel Wilson, and I were never into all that. We showed respect to the other guys and the older kids in the neighborhood, and they had respect for us because we didn't get involved in the neighborhood nonsense. For me it was more fun to play football than to fight or steal.
But I wasn't an angel by any means either; I had my moments of childhood indiscretion and mischief. I snuck down to a place called The Crab Factory and stole seafood to sell elsewhere in the neighborhood. I also would ride my bike or even walk miles farther away from our house than my parents knew.
The thing is, I had four great influences keeping me from getting into too much trouble: my mother, Brenda Vick; my grandmother; the outlet of sports; and especially the Boys & Girls Club, which was located a short walk from home.
My mom was, and is, the rock of our family. I have a younger brother, Marcus, and two sisters: Christina, who is the oldest, and Courtney, the baby of the family. Mom took on all the responsibilities of raising us. Even though my dad, Michael Boddie, was there, Mom dedicated herself to making sure that we were provided for and that we lived the best life we could.
She was a very forgiving lady—very generous and gracious. But she was stern and didn't hesitate to correct us by chastising or spanking us. And when need be, the belt came out. But we needed it. God knows I did!
For some reason, when I was away from the house, I was a cool, calm guy. But when I was home with my mom, I would just wreak havoc all over the house. My mom would put the belt to me when she needed to. Of course, I didn't want to be punished, but it did keep me in line.
She always made sure we had the finer things in life to the extent we could afford them. If it was one new pair of shoes per year, she was going to make sure they were clean, and she was going to make sure we had brand-new clothes to wear with them. Mom just dedicated herself to giving us the best life possible. She worked two jobs at times and did everything she could to provide. It's amazing what she did for us on the income she earned from working at Super Kmart.
She found a way to keep us away from potential harm too. She tried to show us a different side of life when she could. For instance, she took us to Outback Steakhouse whenever she had enough money so we could eat somewhere nice. She sacrificed a lot for us.
My father worked in the nearby shipyards as a sandblaster, turning in long hours that kept him away from the family. But it wasn't just his job that kept him away and distant at times. He also spent plenty of time in the streets, struggling with drugs and alcohol.
He would stay with us at our house, but he really wouldn't put in the effort and family time like I thought he should have. I guess he was into his own thing. I can't really put my finger on it, but I wanted something more. I wanted to spend time with my dad, but he wasn't there. He was usually running with his friends. But he showed that he cared by making sure things were okay for us financially.
I do have some great memories with my dad. When we did spend time together, he would take the time to throw the football with me in the yard. It was in those early days that I realized I was a left-handed passer, which makes me somewhat unique in a sport in which right-handed quarterbacks are most prevalent.
My mother and father eventually married. To my best friend, Jamel, our family seemed close-knit since there was a father and mother in the home. He said we were just about the only family in the neighborhood with a mother and a father in the home together. Jamel once told me, "You have the complete family. You have what everybody else wants." He also said he fondly remembers my mother bringing out cookies, candy, and chips for all the kids in the neighborhood to enjoy.
Jamel's perception wasn't far off. Although my father struggled and may have been separated or distant from us at times, the rest of our family was tight. My brother, sisters, and I joked and played pranks on one another. For some reason, I specifically remember my brother flipping the light switch and acting like he was being electrocuted. My sister would go bananas.
Besides being practical jokers, we also played different games and had fun contests around the house. Thursday nights were pizza night. We would stay home, order pizza, sit cross-legged, and everyone would have a good time and laugh and joke. We were competitive in everything. We stayed up and played cards late at night, talking and enjoying time with each other. We played spades, war, checkers, and one of my favorite games, Monopoly. In Monopoly, I won all the time. I always had the most money and properties.
Back then, money seemed easier to manage.
* * *
I was especially close to my grandmother and spent many memorable times with her. Every weekend, my sisters and I would stay over at her house. I laugh now, remembering how I would flee to her for refuge.
When my mom was mad at me, or whenever I got in trouble and got a spanking, I would usually go to my grandmother's house. She was my getaway. She was my hideout. And she spoiled me to death.
If the trash was full, I would take it out, and she would give me a quarter. When I came in at the right time, she would also give me a quarter, enough for me to go get some candy from the store. She was an incredibly loving lady who always cared about us. If anything was wrong with our health, she felt like she could cure us. If I went to her house on the way to school and said I was tired, she would let me stay home, and I wouldn't have to go to school. If only my mother knew ...
Always a positive influence (even when I stayed home from school), she instilled in me that I had to have the inner strength to overcome adversity. I can remember her saying, "You make sure you take advantage of every opportunity you can in life and make sure you take your education seriously, because nothing is going to be easy." At that time, when I was young, I didn't understand what she was saying, but she was right. Taking advantage of every opportunity is something I wish I had done.
My grandmother also introduced me to the Christian faith. She took me to Solid Rock Church, located in our neighborhood close to where we lived. Those times established an important foundation that I later turned to in my most trying moments.
During my sophomore year of high school, I started sleeping with the Bible under my pillow. I felt like it protected me, and I wanted to be closer to God. As I read the Bible at a young age, I tried to get a clearer understanding of what was written. But I really needed some counsel, discipleship, and education about what I was reading. Even though I wasn't able to grasp everything on my own, I was able to build that sense of belief, knowing that I could do all things through God and that I couldn't do it without Him.
My favorite Scripture passage growing up was Psalm 23, which, in the King James Version of the Bible, says:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of
mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days
of my life: and I will dwell in the house of
the Lord for ever.
My favorite verse of Scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, is one that my grandmother always told me to read:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I know the other kids in the neighborhood weren't sleeping with the Bible under their pillows; they weren't reading their Bible at night. None of my friends were doing it. I was probably the only kid in Newport News who was. The reason I say that is to highlight my solid foundation. Though gunshots echoed through the night in Newport News, my personal foundation—thanks to my mother and grandmother—was rock solid.
Excerpted from Michael Vick Finally Free by Michael Vick, Brett Honeycutt, Stephen Copeland. Copyright © 2012 Michael Vick. Excerpted by permission of WORTHY PUBLISHING.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted September 10, 2012
I will respect the opinions of people supporting this man if they have also read "The Lost Dogs" and have personally seen the victims of any dog fighting ring. If you can hold a dog in your lap that has been severely injured both physically and mentally by being forced to fight by a bunch of mean, ignorant people or witness the corpse of a dog that was murdered by these people because it didn't "perform" up to their standards and still respect this man then you are a far different person than I am. Even if he deserves a second chance, he should never be held up to the standards of a "hero" or someone children should look up to.
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Posted September 5, 2012
I will not be reading or buying this book. Vick is only sorry he got caught. I will give him credit for opening my eyes to the horrors of dog fighting, bait dogs and the like. How anyone could do this to an animal is beyond my understanding. Understand he killed dogs with his bare hands. I will not in anyway support this kind of person.
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Posted August 25, 2012
I think that anyone that would pay for this book is just as guilty as he
is for the crimes he committed. I am also tired of hearing how "he
paid his debt to society". That is a load of crap. He served time
for lying in court not for the dog fighting charges. Once you have
committed acts like this to another living being there is never enough
time served to be forgiven for what you did. I am appalled that the
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES would promote a book written by this
dog beating, dog fighting, dog killing piece of ghetto trash.
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Posted September 6, 2012
I wouldn't spend a penny on Vick's book. How can you respect a man who has participated in such cruelty to these dogs? The only thing he's sorry for is that he got caught. He doesn't deserve to earn anything off the sale of this book. If someone did to him what he did to these animals, they would be put away for life. All he got was a short time in prison and slap on the hand. He thinks we should buy into the idea that he is sorry and a better person? You'll never convince me of that. Read the book by Jim Gorant. Vick does not deserve anything but disgust. Criminals should not be able to sell their life stories. Great football player or not, he is dirt beneath my fingernails.
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Posted September 5, 2012
Shame on you all who judge this man. Whatever crimes he may have committed so be it. This is a forum for book reviews NOT your personal opinions unrelated to the book itself. Find the right forum and voice your opinion there where someone' might actually care what you think. I only rate this a 5 to offset your ignorance
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Posted September 5, 2012
Of course the HSUS would have something positive to say about this evil dog murderer. They were given $50,000 by the Philadelphia Eagles to take him under their wing and say nice things about them. I don't believe anything that is said by an organization which mis-manages money. This book just reminds people of Vick and all his lies and excuses. He got a high out of fighting then killing dogs. That kind of behavior doesn't stop just because you got caught. He has said in the past he wouldn't change anything about his life. I bet his murdered and abused dogs would disagree.
17 out of 33 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2012
If anyone wishes to read a true autobiography of Michael Vick, then they should pick up The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant. This book? Nothing more than a cobbled together version of the man Vick WISHES he was, but never will be. Vile and contemptible. This is not a role model for anyone to vilify.
16 out of 30 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 17, 2012
first of all, to the anonymous sept. 5 poster who said that this is not a forum for personal views but for book reviews...you may have had a point except, where exactly is YOUR book review? your post is the exact same as every other post that is not a book review.
second of all, i want to echo every negative review posted here. michael vick is scum. no, i have not read this book and i never will. clearly anyone willing to read, and more importantly pay for, this book does not understand or care to understand the crimes he committed against dogs and humanity. i suggest that if you are going to sing michael vick's praises as a "changed man," you should read "the lost dogs" and see if you still feel that way. you will never convince me that someone who is capable of committing those kinds of acts against animals is a good person. every person deserves a second chance, i truly believe that, even in michael vick's case. but his second chance is not one of learning from his mistakes and gaining perspective -- instead he is back living the high life, repairing his image, and now apparently profiting off this horrible situation. and no, michael vick has NOT duly paid for his crimes -- he has done the bare minimum required for getting caught and lying about it. if he had never got caught, every single one of those dogs and countless others would be suffering a horrible existence and dying at his hands. it's completely DISGUSTING. shame on ANYONE who makes excuses for that!
i want to leave everyone with this quote: "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." --ghandi
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Posted September 13, 2012
What...is this his story of how to run a dog fighting ring? His story isn't worth putting on paper! Burn every copy of this damn book. No apologies will be accepted for what he did to those innocent dogs!
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Posted September 13, 2012
I notice there are six 5 star reviews and six 1 star reviews. The 1 star are clearly people who have not ever read the book and probably won't, just because they don't care for Michael Vick. Writing things like "I wouldn't spend a penny on this book" yet YOU spend YOUR TIME writing a negative comment. As someone else stated THIS is for book reviews!!!!! Not a forum for your opinion on the person and there past actions. Everyone has made mistakes and NOBODY is prefect so STOP judging someone as if you are. Apply your time to something else. Anywho, the book give a clearer insight and understanding into Vick's life past and present. It's a great read and I wish him all the success x10!!!
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Posted August 25, 2012
To the Anonymous writer who wrote the comment below about Michael Vick
being a piece of Ghetto trash. You need to get a life, your just jealous
because you probably haven't been smart or strong enough to get back up
when you fall. Stupid ass !!
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Posted March 7, 2013
So we have come to a point in our society where one can be the monster that Michael Vick is and still get support and affirmations by just writing abook about it.
The title of his book is Finally Free. Can the dogs he tortured and killed say that?
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Posted March 5, 2013
Rather than line Vick's pockets with any more $$ when it comes to the suffering of those animals, why not buy a book that tells of the SURVIVAL of the pups that were owned by this monster! Jim Gorant's book: The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 5, 2012
I will be reading this book because I think Michael Vick is an elite quarterback and has a great story to tell. I am a huge Eagles fan and a Michael Vick fan. What he has done is in the past and I forgive him for what he has done. This should be a great book and am definetly going to buy it. Michael Vick is the man!
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Posted March 7, 2013
I will not buy this book and I will be cancelling my Barnes & Noble account.
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Posted September 7, 2012
Quit acting like you guys are so innocent, we all made that one mistake that we can't change until we get caught. So everyone talking bad about the book you shouldn't even be here in the first place. EAGLES ALL DAY! He is a changed MAN. YOur breath is a killing piece of ghetto trash.
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Posted March 11, 2013
A better read would be "The Lost Dogs" where the sociopath vick's crimes against innocent animals are described. This cretin should not be glorified by ANY individual and he certainly is no different today than he was then, he's just got more lawyers and publicists covering his butt. B&N lost my business.
6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2013
This sociopath tortured and murdered dogs for fun and profit, and has shown no remorse. When the Humane Society of the United States raided his property, the inner perimeter of the electrified pool into which he threw live dogs, was deeply scarred with scratch marks as the dogs tried to claw their way out of the pool. Why would anyone care what this sadistic monster has to say? And spend money for it? I don't think so. It won't be long before the NFL kicks him to the curb like so much trash.
5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2012
I look forward to reading this book. Everyone deserves a second chance.
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Posted November 26, 2012
This book is an easy read and very open book about Michael Vick. At some times it is sad but rather humbling. I honestly believe Michael has come to realize the main people you must be true to is God and yourself. Outside influences do play a role in decisions made however you as a person makes the final decision to do right or wrong. Best wishes and blessings to Mike and his family in the years to come
3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.