Michael Vick and his ‘double life’: How exactly did he do it?

I was encouraged to hear that Michael Vick, in advance of his reality show that debuts Tuesday on BET , is saying he led a double life,” and I use the word “encouraged” advisedly. Because you don’t know how many times I’ve asked myself and asked people who worked inside the building at 4400 Falcon Parkway if I/they had any hint — any hint — of what was to come.

And I did not. Which might make me the world’s worst reporter, except that I’ve not yet found anyone within the compound who saw it coming, either.

I know, I know. People on the outside will harrumph and say they knew  it all along because he wore his hair in corn rows and dressed in a manner different from, say, Peyton Manning. But I grew up in the ’60s and have had some fairly extravagant hairdos myself, and I attended my high school graduation wearing platform shoes with four-inch heels. Me, I stopped judging on appearances long ago.

And even if you believed Vick mightn’t have been a model citizen, you knew this … how? Before the Ron Mexico civil action was filed in 2005, there wasn’t a hint of misdoings, and he’d been a Falcon since April 2001. In hindsight, the weird part wasn’t that we “knew all about” the most famous person in Atlanta but that we knew, as in really knowing, hardly anything.

Even after a relatively quiet NFL season, Vick is back in the news. Scott MacFarlane of WSB recently gained access to documents stemming from the Federal investigation into dogfighting. The highlights: That Vick, according to informants, shot some dogs and hit others with a shovel, and got an “adrenaline high” from the brutality.

Eight days ago the Dallas Morning News reported that David Jacobs, a steroids dealer who has since killed himself and his girlfriend, told the paper he supplied Vick when the quarterback was still a Falcon. (Vick has denied to federal investigators he used performance-enhancing drugs.)

The Falcons made Michael Vick the NFL’s highest-paid player by signing him to a new contract on Dec. 23, 2004. Not just a franchise player, he was The Franchise. And surely that’s the best evidence they didn’t have an inkling that another Vick — the part hidden on a back road in Virginia — existed. Maybe their screening processes weren’t airtight, but maybe Vick was just an expert at living two lives.

Working on a profile, I spent a little time with Vick in 2002. I remember asking what teammates he considered close friends. He mentioned reserve wide receiver Trevor Gaylor, and Matt Winkeljohn, then the AJC’s Falcons writer, suggested Quentin McCord, another sub. I was a bit surprised the team leader didn’t have more of a locker-room constituency, but I’d be lying if I said I thought much about it.

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I knew he had friends from Virginia living at his house in Sugarloaf  — he admitted as much — but it wasn’t as if they had the run of Flowery Branch. After Vick was sentenced, a researcher for “60 Minutes” asked me if his Virginia associates had been around all the time, and I told him the truth: I never once saw them.

Even after the various “incidents” — Ron Mexico, the bird-flip, the trick water bottle — I stuck to my default mode: That Vick was a decent guy. Then he was indicted, and reading that indictment on July 17, 2007, was the equivalent of staring into a funhouse mirror. Was that guy capable of this? Reading the same document in a plane returning from Africa, Arthur Blank had the same response: “This was not the Michael Vick I knew.”

That’s why I’m intrigued by “The Michael Vick Project”, and what it might reveal. I thought I knew him. Turns out I only knew what I was allowed to see. I’m intrigued to see how he kept his lives compartmentalized. I’m intrigued, as the spies in John le Carre’s fictional Circus would say, by the tradecraft.

168 comments Add your comment

Cousin Vicker

January 31st, 2010
1:43 pm

You should just close down commenting immediately on this one Mark. We all know how it will turn out.

Cousin Vicker

January 31st, 2010
1:44 pm

And wow, first commenter with the blog being up for 12 minutes? That is unprecedented.

gerald perry's yoga routine

January 31st, 2010
1:50 pm

I wonder what Clusters thinks about this?

/namastae

Catdawg

January 31st, 2010
1:54 pm

I knew Mark long ago when he was a cub reporter for the Cats Pause. Trust him on the hair thing, he has the weird Al afro going long before weird Al made it big.

The McRib - why only for a limited time?

January 31st, 2010
1:54 pm

I’m just glad he’s out of here… let some other franchise try and wipe his residue off the bottom of their shoes. GO FALCONS!

matt r

January 31st, 2010
1:55 pm

Good column.

Good grief, Gaylor and McCord… as much as we complain now about the offense we’re light years ahead of the Dan Reeves days, personnel-wise.

Bullwinkle

January 31st, 2010
1:59 pm

Here’s an inkling that we all missed. Michael Vick came into the NFL with loads of raw talent. But he never worked hard enough to get better. And he never seemed to want to get better. So something was a major distraction. And now we know what it was. And in the process we were all cheated, including Michael Vick. Very sad.

sharecropper

January 31st, 2010
2:01 pm

And does anyone seriously believe that it will be any different now? If he was that good at deception before jail, think what and whom he has learned from in jail.

Mark Bradley

January 31st, 2010
2:07 pm

I’d disagree slightly, Bullwinkle. I think he worked hard at the start. I think something changed after the new contract.

Mark Bradley

January 31st, 2010
2:08 pm

I’m afraid there are photos, Jackets2010. Many photos.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:08 pm

Mark, inquiring minds would love to see some of those 70s photos since the Tiger news has dried up.

BugKiller

January 31st, 2010
2:12 pm

“He was a nice young man. Very handsome and charming.”

– quotes attributed to TED BUNDY from someone who “knew him.”

Michael Vick is SICK. He is a sociopath who got a rush from torturing and then killing living animals. That is how serial killers get their start, you know. Torturing and killing small animals.

You sound EXACTLY like the people who stuck up for Ted Bundy, Mark.

In fact, I’m sure right now, there are people out there who think, “That was not the TED BUNDY I knew.”

Oh, and by the way, Mark, get your facts straight.

DAVID JACOBS DIDN’T COMMIT SUICIDE… HE WAS MURDERED.

It’s kind of hard to commit suicide and shoot yourself TWICE.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:12 pm

I just wish those of you who are so judgemental of Mick Vick and Bobby Bonds would apply the same judgements to McGuire and those NFLers who have killed people driving drunk.
I believe a St. Louis lineman did that and was back in the league soon afterwards.

gerald perry's yoga routine

January 31st, 2010
2:13 pm

Hey Mark, how long did the perm and mustached photo run in AJC columns? Like 1984-2001?

/peace

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:15 pm

You could give us all some good laughs but maybe we should have to send some of ours to get a look.
Maybe a contest with a vote for silliest outfit and hair style.

Mark Bradley

January 31st, 2010
2:15 pm

I give you enough unintentional laughs as it is, I believe.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:16 pm

Does any one else hate the NBA lottery?
Didn’t we lose out on Dwight Howard due to the lottery?
The Sacramento Kings have gotten stiffed by it lately.

Michael

January 31st, 2010
2:18 pm

dave

January 31st, 2010
2:20 pm

Call me a skeptic, but judging from the “reality” shows I have seen, I do not think there will be a whole lot learned about what Michael Vick is really like from this made-for-TV endeavor.

You’ll see what he wants you to see of him through the lens of what the show’s editors and producers want you to see of him. All set to music.

dave

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:20 pm

No I think plenty of them are intentional.
Unfortunately some of your younger readers don’t appreciate your and Jeff’s wit.
I sat next to Gani Lawal’s dad at the Tech game.
He has a very good value system that his son benefitted from as was noted in an AJC article today.
I should have asked if he wanted a ride to the Duke game.
It was my one road trip in football season but I think he sais he doesn’t go on the road.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:22 pm

Dave if we had to put up with shows about the aging rock stars which I never watch, it does’t surprise me Vick gets a show too.

BugKiller

January 31st, 2010
2:23 pm

In more recent and relevant news:

Who wouldn’t pay SERIOUS money to see Herschel Walker destroy Timmy Teblow in the Octagon?

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:24 pm

I think most SEC fans were pulling for Herchel including Gator fans but if you have to put things like that, maybe they’ll start watching hoping he gets whipped.
As the competition gets tougher, won’t it become more difficult to watch?

La Jolla Dawg

January 31st, 2010
2:25 pm

Mark, I appreciate you sharing why, as someone who actually interacted with Michael Vick, all of this was so shocking to you. For the majority of us, we never knew him beyond what he did or didn’t do on the field. For that reason, I am not as shocked or surprised about his “leading a double life.” I thought Vick was an exciting player to root for, but had no real sense of him as a person. Though I do remember not thinking much of him when he gave the finger to the Falcons’ fans. Now, I don’t think about him at all and honestly, I doubt many others do either. Will be interesting to see what kind of ratings his show gets.

John Thomas

January 31st, 2010
2:26 pm

After Vick, Woods, the baseball steroid scandals and all before that one would think that adults would stop worshiping these people and they would stop receiving sums of money that no one could possibly deserve.

I am still amazed at the need of some people to close ranks around Vick and welcome him back as if he some sort of victim. The animals he abused and killed were the victims and Vick deserved every day he spent in jail.

junebaby

January 31st, 2010
2:31 pm

it must be a slow news month! same old, same old, same old gimmick. if i want some hits, write about vick. and the beat goes on. it must be nice to know, that you have a subject at least once a month.

Sonny Clusters

January 31st, 2010
2:31 pm

How many of us have been struck in the face by a ham like Paula Deen last Thanksgiving? Not many, we’d venture to say. Watching a Mike Vick television show would be a lot like getting hit in the face with a ham for us. We might watch him play some football but we don’t care to watch him doing anything else. Pitchers and catchers report in 18 days and that is the news we are most interested in. If we was going to watch Mike Vick or baseball we would choose baseball everytime.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:32 pm

La Jolla, who was the retired Bronco QB nicknamed snake who did the same thing?
Ever wonder if you were on the field and the home crowd – the folks u r fighting for got under your skin – if u wouldn’t react that way.

Mark Bradley

January 31st, 2010
2:32 pm

I’ll be intrigued by the ratings, too, La Jolla. I can’t imagine it will do all that well. Vick is more a curiousity now.

cattle dawg

January 31st, 2010
2:33 pm

Mark, do you see any comparisons in how two Atlanta athletes both inflamed Atlanta an the state of Georgia like Mike Vick an John Rocker? Vick being better than Rocker in my book. Both were good for a while an brought excitement to thier teams an fans. Remember how rock would come busting from the bullpen. How fans of both these guys would cheer an support them long after most folks had moved on. Both were divided along racial lines. Im not comparing what one did, or say to the other. Just a thought.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:34 pm

Seems to be in the building up of Tiger, the press trashed all his competition like David Duvall.
I have wondered if the Tiger as Messiah phenonmena had anything to do with Duvall’s downfall from the top.

David

January 31st, 2010
2:34 pm

Mark,

This space will be filled with race-induced hatred in just a few moments. You may want to consider shutting down the blog. This won’t end pretty.

dooley

January 31st, 2010
2:35 pm

back to the topic, i’m from columbus, and we knew back when Vick was first picked #1 that he was into dog fighting. If you listen to his first interview he was talking about dogs. He was spotted at numerous dog fights throughout the south. (at least all the way to Texas) the word was that he was trying the steroids on the dogs. if the falcons really wanted to know about vick they could have or would have found out.

VickSick

January 31st, 2010
2:37 pm

He was a hood, and found a way to throw his team, family and the poor dogs under the bus. Thank God he is gone and we have a real QB now.

Mark Bradley

January 31st, 2010
2:37 pm

He never said he was into dog fighting. (That might have raised a red flag, wouldn’t you think?) He said he loved dogs. Sports Illustrated ran a photo of him with a dog. And I’ve never met anyone who saw Vick at a dog fight. I’ve never met anyone who has admitted being at a dog fight.

falcon 71

January 31st, 2010
2:38 pm

Mark I know this is the “dead period” in sports for most people but please find something current to write about. Vick is past history around here

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:39 pm

So far we have a pretty good group.

Kevin

January 31st, 2010
2:40 pm

So if I kill and torture dozens of dogs will I get a reality show too? Maybe they should give one to OJ? Ridiculous.

Dr. Warren

January 31st, 2010
2:42 pm

Vick showed up with Jay Feely at the Barnes & Noble on Peachtree the summer after his rookie year. (Don’t remember which one). It was part of Blank’s connect-with-the-city campaign. But the B & N manager got annoyed and shoed them out the store because no one from the Falcons had arranged official permission. I remember hearing that Vick was extremely polite and down-to-earth and sheepish about it. That was the Vick I thought about when he was kicking butt at Green Bay and Minnesota.

La Jolla Dawg

January 31st, 2010
2:43 pm

Jackets2010, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to want to give people the finger when they tick you off. You do have to be a professional, however, to not give in to the urge. Especially when you are on national TV and are essentially flipping off those who butter your bread. I own a retail business, please don’t think I wouldn’t love to give someone the bird now and then. If I did, wouldn’t have my business for very long.

Truth Teller

January 31st, 2010
2:44 pm

Oh hell here we go Mark open up the gates and let the tree huggers and dog kissers in, come on white folks have some children to hug and kiss!!!

dooley

January 31st, 2010
2:48 pm

Mark, i know a lot of people don’t want to admit to being at dogfights, but when there is smoke, there is fire. i know numerous people who bought dogs from vick. everyone talks about this subculture of dog fighting, and this is what goes on. the people who are involved will not tell on vick because he was just like them, at first. and you’re right about 1 thing, there were never any problems until he signed the big contract. he changed and started acting different, that’s why his cousin told on him. vick really started to get the big head. you remember right before the dogfighting story broke, he said “everybody love mike vick”. 2 days later the story broke and all hell broke loose.

Dr. Warren

January 31st, 2010
2:49 pm

Actually, I do remember which B & N–the one in the shopping center across from Moe’s on Peachtree.

a different guy

January 31st, 2010
2:50 pm

I am friends with the assistant coach…at the time… that recruited and coached him at Virginia Tech. He said that Micheal back then was a great kid and a pleasure to coach. Something just went wrong somewhere but he said that he was a really good kid.

ASHEVILLE DAWG

January 31st, 2010
2:50 pm

I met Vick twice and always thought he was a punk and thug like. it did not surprise me.

Jackets2010

January 31st, 2010
2:51 pm

Good points La Jolla.
Can’t disagree.

Parrotplegic

January 31st, 2010
2:53 pm

I would just like to know why you feel it necessary to address Vick’s “double life”, when he no longer plays for the Falcons? I agree with another poster, slow news day. Plus, you can always account for the self-righteous Jawjuns (real or imagined) to get up on their high horses, when they are the biggest hypocrites.

Get a life and move on. Now you idiots want to continue to smear the man with the words of a DEAD MAN, yes.. a DEAD MAN. A man, who is past bonedust, and we can verify NOTHING that supposedly came from his mouth when was among the living. No tapes, no videos.. nothing.

Yep, that’s about the size of it in the good ol’ US of A. Throw the doo doo to the wall, some of its bound to stick. Everyone deserves new opportunities and forgiveness, as long as they look like you or conform to your standard of perfection. Lovely.

Bring Back Vick!

January 31st, 2010
2:56 pm

Ryan’s hurt a lot–the Falcons should pay $5-$8 mil to bring Vick back for some quality minutes when Ryan goes down.

BugKiller

January 31st, 2010
2:59 pm

Parrot = Another idiot who would sacrifice common sense and all sense of right and wrong at the altar of athletic celebrity.

If Ted Bundy played football like Mike Vick, Parrot and those like him would wonder what all the fuss was about.

Well, maybe if Ted Bundy had a DEEP tan.

Nancy

January 31st, 2010
2:59 pm

How did he keep it compartmentalized? One word: sociopath. Do I believe most of what he says now? One word: No.