Michael Vick seemed to have it all, but his new host of legal troubles could cause him to tumble from a top spot in the sports world.
With his blazing speed down the gridiron and rocket launcher for an arm, Vick is widely seen as one of the most exciting and most marketable football players on the field.
The top pick in the 2001 NFL draft, he has a $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Banking on his popularity among fans of America's No. 1 sport, Nike signed Vick for a shoe deal, and he has graced the cover of EA Sports' bestselling Madden NFL video game.
Now he finds himself accused of running a dog fighting ring and allegedly engaging in cruelty to animals -- with an indictment detailing acts bordering on the barbaric.
The controversy threatens to transcend the sports community, even outraging members of Congress.
"The fight can go on for hours. [You] hear me?" Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., asked, his body shaking with anger as he discussed dog fighting to the Senate floor. "How inhuman! How inhuman!" he continued.
Tuesday, two members of the House of Representatives called on the NFL to suspend Vick indefinitely.
Accused of Hosting Fights, Killing Dogs
A federal indictment claims Vick bought a property in Surry County, Va., in 2001, and for the next six years operated "Bad Newz Kennels" to fight pit bulls for cash. Investigators say Vick and three others indicted hosted fights, and traveled across state lines to enter their dogs in other matches.
"The dog fight would last until the death or surrender of the losing dog. At the end of the fight, the losing dog was sometimes put to death by drowning, hanging, gunshot, (even) electrocution," the indictment alleges.
Vick has denied the charges, but that has not stopped animal rights activists from protesting and calling on his corporate sponsors to drop him.
On Tuesday owner and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank issued a statement on the indictment. Blank expressed agreement with the decision handed down from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ordering Vick to not be a part of the Falcon's training camp until the league reviews the case.
He also made reference to the emotional impact of the indictment, noting that it affects all those associated with the Atlanta Falcons. "It has gone beyond our partners, and touched the emotions of people across the country and we have heard from many…That anyone would participate in dogfighting is incomprehensible to me."
Rich McKay, president and general manager of the franchise, said, "I think this was our position. We asked for a four-game suspension. Obviously we feel comfortable with Michael not being in training camp. We will decide in the future if Michael will play during the year or not."
The charges come at a sensitive time for the NFL, which has been in perpetual damage control to maintain its all-American image. Since 2006, more than 50 NFL players have been arrested or charged various crimes.
Now Vick, who became famous because of his elusive moves on the football field, has to hope his lawyers will be just as nimble in court.
He and the three other defendants will appear in a federal court in Richmond, Va., Thursday -- the same day the Falcons' training camp kicks off outside Atlanta -- for arraignment and a bond hearing.