Michael Vick Launches Comeback On and Off the Field

After dogfighting conviction, quarterback speaks to students about his mistakes.

Nov. 24, 2010 — -- Michael Vick is making a new name for himself.

Putting up an all-time-best six touchdowns in a record-setting game against the Washington Redskins in week 10 and leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a come-from-behind win over the New York Giants Sunday, Vick's performances on the field have thrust him into the MVP conversation.

If you told him three years ago commentators would be hailing him as the best quarterback on the field, he wouldn't have believed you. After being convicted for his role in the "Bad Newz Kennels" dog fighting operation in 2007 and serving 18 months in federal prison, Vick didn't think he'd suit up in a professional uniform again.

"At the time, it was over," Vick told ABC News' Bob Woodruff. "I think I'm a better player now because God took me to the bottom. I'm a firm believer in karma and I think it happened because of what I did, and what I allowed to happen to those animals."

Now, Vick is the leading player in a comeback story playing out in two arenas -- on the gridiron and on a high school auditorium stage.

When he's not avoiding the pass rush, Vick can be found in places like James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn., where he spoke with students Tuesday about his past, the horrors of dog fighting and the importance of trying to live responsibly.

"It's been a great opportunity," Vick said of his partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, "trying to get the message out there and trying to prevent all forms of violence and all forms of animal cruelty."

Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society, introduced Vick to the roughly 500 students in attendance.

"Michael Vick and I have been traveling around the country in an unlikely sort of way," Pacelle said. "Michael Vick is very passionate about this issue. He made some terrible mistakes. He got involved with dog fighting, and he threatened his career by getting involved in something cruel."

Vick said he talks to students about his dog fighting past because "it's what's right." He told Woodruff after the event Tuesday that his service and programs with the Humane Society have changed his attitude.

"I don't want them to end up in the same position I ended up in," Vick said. "I feel like I'm obligated to share my testimony with them, so they don't go down the wrong track with any form of violence."

Though he was greeted with cheers from students jumping out of their seats in New Haven, Vick hasn't been forgiven by all. Some critics say he's doing public service because he has to, not because he wants to, or that it's just an attempt to save his reputation.

"I can't change that," he told Woodruff. "I know I'm here to help masses of people. If I can prevent masses of people from doing what I was doing, then I can help masses of animals."

The toughest questions Vick has faced haven't been from his critics, but from his family.

"My daughter comes to me every day and asks me if I can get a dog. I can't get a dog for my kids because of my ill-advised actions," said Vick, who is barred from owning animals.

His 5-0 performance as starter this season has sent Vick back into the spotlight. Vick has led the resurgent Eagles to the top of the NFC East and has put the team, now with a 7-3 record, in position to capture a division title.

Vick was drafted No. 1 by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001 and once was the highest-paid player in the league. During the first part of his career, he went to the Pro Bowl three times and set the single-season rushing record for an NFL quarterback in 2006 with 1,039 yards. His average of 8.45 yards a carry that season set another NFL record.

His career came screeching to a halt in 2007 when he was charged with competitive dog fighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines, and sentenced to 23 months in prison.

"I was caught just in time to save my life. I was headed down the wrong path," Vick said. "When I was in prison, I just wanted to come back and make amends and just play football."

Vick's return to the NFL hasn't been smooth. After the Eagles signed him in 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and outraged football fans shared their disappointment with the league for letting Vick play again.

"You have to wonder what sort of message this sends to young fans who care about animals and don't want them to be harmed," PETA spokesman Dan Sharron told The Associated Press after Philadelphia announced its new quarterback.

Just six months ago, Vick made headlines again after there was a shooting at his birthday party in Virginia Beach, Va. Vick said he left the nightclub before the shooting occurred and that he informed the NFL following the incident. His reinstatement to the NFL in 2009 was contingent on his compliance with the terms of his probation.

Vick played sparingly his first season back, but Eagles coach Andy Reid named Vick the team's starting quarterback in September to replace Kevin Kolb.

"When someone is playing at the level Michael Vick is playing, you have to give him an opportunity," Reid said.

As the starter for Philadelphia, he's battled rib injuries and took a month off this season. He told Woodruff the game against the Redskins was "the best game I've ever played."

Though he's found success again on the field -- he's on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated -- Vick is still reminded of his mistakes in the past, when his life was "a lie."

"I just wasn't honest with a lot of people," Vick said. "I was blessed with so much, I took it all for granted. You don't realize what you've done wrong until the door closes behind you in prison."

He said he hopes to spread his message to a larger audience by playing in the league's biggest game.

"I hope [I win a Super Bowl]," Vick told Woodruff. I think it will help as we continue to do all the things we are doing in the community. I think more kids are looking at my situation and more are willing to listen."

Vick and the Eagles face the Chicago Bears Nov. 28 at Soldier Field.

ABC News' Drew Millhon and The Associated Press contributed to this report.