DURHAM — Michael Vicks mom tried to warn him off of the dog fighting.
But he would just deny he was involved, the NFL quarterback told a crowd of students, teachers and community members packed into New Horizons Academy of Excellence this morning.
If I had just listened, Vick said. I never would have taken those three or four steps back.
Vick made a nearly hour-and-a-half appearance at the Hunt Street school that provides second chances to students who have dropped out or faced long-term suspensions from other facilities.
Vick, a former quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, stood before the room and testified about weekly trips to Virginia to fight dogs, his fall from glory, and his comeback plan that he plotted while sitting in federal prison.
Vick stressed taking advantage of second changes, taking responsibility for one's actions and not becoming a product of a bad environment.
You have to be bigger than that, he said.
Vick also took questions from the crowd, signed autographs, and took pictures with the students.
In August 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy associated with running Bad Newz Kennels, a dog fighting and gambling operation, on his property in Surry County, Va. from 2001 to 2007.
Towards the end of Vicks federal prison sentence, he sat down with Humane Society of the United States President and CEO Wayne Pacelle and asked if he could work with the organization and speak to at-risk youth across the country about his experience.
Vick pledged to do two community-based events every month to reach at-risk youth. The events will take him around the country during and after the football season for the next few years, according to the Humane Society's Web site.
I think I dont have to apologize anymore, Vick said. My thing is my actions speak louder than my words.
Now, Vick has has gotten his team involved. In October 2009, the Philadelphia Eagles launched "Treating Animals With Kindness," which provides grants to animal welfare organizations to protect animals, according to the Humane Society's Web page. The society was selected as one of the grant recipients and received $50,000 grant for an "End Dogfighting" campaign.
New Horizons Academy of Excellence is an independent school that provides ongoing education and job training to middle and high school age students who have dropped out or have been expelled or suspended for a long term.