NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Suspended NFL star Michael Vick told a bankruptcy court on Friday that his time in prison has given him a chance to think, and he's realized he needs to make some changes.
The ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who is serving a 23-month prison sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting operation, said he knows he committed a "heinous" act that was very irresponsible.
"I can't live like the old Mike Vick," he told a courtroom filled with his family, friends and fiancee. "I was very immature. I did a lot of things I wasn't supposed to do being a role model."
In prison, he's filled his days by reading, writing, playing basketball and working a 12-cent-an-hour job as a janitor, he said. The experience has given him a chance to develop he called "an exit strategy."
Vick is testifying as part of a hearing to evaluate his plan to emerge from financial ruin. He was once one of the NFL's highest-paid players, but lavish spending and poor investments, coupled with the backlash from his dogfighting case, led to his downfall. Vick filed for bankruptcy in July claiming assets of $16 million and debts of more than $20 million.
His plan to pay his creditors is based largely on the goal of returning to a professional football career.
Vick is expected to be released from custody in July, and traveled from a federal prison in Kansas to attend the hearing. He could be transferred to home confinement at his eastern Virginia home by late May, and his agent testified Thursday that he hopes Vick can return to the NFL by September.
In order for that to happen, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would have to reinstate Vick, who was suspended indefinitely after he was indicted on the dogfighting conspiracy charge in 2007. Goodell has said he would consider Vick's case after his release.
Vick's agent, Joel Segal, said on the stand Thursday that he would try to negotiate a short-term contract filled with incentives for playing time and starts that could bring in millions. He also said Vick has agreed to plans for a television documentary that will pay him $600,000.
Earlier this week, Vick and the Falcons agreed he would repay $6.5 million of his Atlanta contract, moving closer to cutting ties with a team that doesn't want him. Segal said he hasn't spoken to teams because Vick is still under contract with the Falcons, but that he is in shape and will be prepared for his return.
"There will be determination like we've never seen before to be structured and disciplined," Segal said.
When he is sent to home confinement, Vick will have a 40-hour-a-week, $10-an-hour job at one of W.M. Jordan Co.'s 40 commercial construction jobs, said John Robert Lawson, whose father helped start the Newport News company.
Lawson, 57, said that he has known Vick for more than 10 years and that they have been involved in charitable work together. He said Vick's representatives approached him when the former hometown hero was turned away by other employers.
"I believe all of us make mistakes, and once you've fulfilled your commitment and paid the price, you should be given a second chance," Lawson said in a telephone interview. "He's not a bad person. He made some bad choices."