Michael Vick was the first-overall pick in the 2000 draft and in 13 seasons he has thrown for 21,489 yards and 128 touchdowns and run for another 5,857 yards and 36 touchdowns. But Vick considers his comments last summer supporting Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper the most important thing he's accomplished in the NFL.
In July 2013, Deadspin posted a video that showed uttering the N-word at the camera during a Kenny Chesney show. The Eagles fined Cooper before announcing that he would seek "outside assistance" for whatever it was that compelled him to call out black people at a country music concert. Through it all, Vick had Cooper's back.
"It's the best thing I've done as a professional athlete, absolutely," Vick told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor Wednesday. "I handled it so my team could move forward, and I handled it so people could forget about it and not look at Riley a certain kind of way. ...
"I changed the whole dynamic of that situation, and that was a proud moment for me. ... I was able to save a young man's career, and that young man went on to have the greatest year of his career and get a contract that he probably never imagined he would get."
Cooper signed signed a five-year, $25 million deal after starting 15 games and catching 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns last season. But Vick, now with the Jets, says a congratulatory text to Riley went unanswered shortly after the wide receiver signed his new contract.
"A couple of things transpired since [the incident] that I dislike, and I'll be honest with you," Vick told O'Connor. "After he signed his contract, I sent him a text and I never got a text back, and that made me feel a certain type of way. But I'm not the type of guy who holds grudges."
The Eagles and the Jets meet in Thursday's preseason finale and Vick has every intention of catching up with Cooper. In fact, according to Vick's spokesperson, the two players talked on the phone Wednesday, though details of the conversation weren't known.
Vick attributes his ability to handle the situation with Cooper and his Eagles teammates to the maturity he gained during his 19-month prison stint for dogfighting.
"I just felt like I was the most capable guy on that team of taking a stand for Riley, and being a voice for him at that time," Vick said. Otherwise, Vick suggested, the situation "was going to derail our team. Unfortunately, it was going to derail Riley's career. It would have ended his career."
In the end, Vick says the locker room needed just two weeks to put the incident behind them.
""They might not have forgotten about it, but they forgave him," he said. "We had guys talking about knocking him out, taking his head off, doing X, Y and Z to him on the field, and none of that happened, out of respect for myself, I think."