If you loved Bleacher Report’s excellent documentary on Michael Vick, then you will absolutely devour Michael Vick: A Football Life like turkey on Thanksgiving day. The NFL Films production simply takes Vick’s story to another level, with more player perspectives on his background, persona, and eventual comeback from rock bottom.
Obviously, there are similarities between the two mini-films. It is impossible to not cover the dogfighting plotline when discussing the highs and lows of Vick’s career. However, there is a definite emphasis on Vick’s return to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles and his personal moral obstacle of overcoming the stigma as a felon.
The documentary goes in-depth, probably more in-depth than the Bleacher Report feature, about Vick’s decision to come to Virginia Tech, and what he accomplished there. NFL Films captures moments from Vick’s first game to the National Championship to the 2001 NFL Draft. NFL Films also provides more footage of the early years of Vick which is another huge disparity between the BR counterpart. Personally as a college student, the earliest memory of Vick comes in the form of his unstoppable self in Madden 2004. A healthy dose of jaw-dropping, video-game-esque plays are included that convey just the insane athletic ability Vick was blessed with. It was superhuman play after superhuman play.
Another key difference and strength of A Football Life is the access to Michael Vick’s coaches and fellow teammates.
“Great (sports) documentaries come down to a player with great footage, and that’s obviously a given for Michael Vick,” said NFL Films producer Tim Rumpff, who was in charge of the production. “The second aspect is great access, which is something we have as part of NFL Films.”
The documentary does not just show Vick’s perspective on his story – it incorporates how the arrest shocked teammates and even his family. Vick’s fall from grace in 2007 took away eventual championship hopes from the city of Atlanta as the team was forced to rebuild around rookie QB Matt Ryan at the start of the 2008 season.
Even Jim Mora and Dan Reeves, Vick’s former coaches with the Falcons, were surprised by the events because they never saw that part of Michael. Frank Beamer chimes in on the subject as well in the documentary.
“Hearing from coaches and a lot of teammates as far as their experience throughout the process was important,” noted Rumpff. “Seeing how they were blindsided by the entire thing, including coaches Jim Mora and Dan Reeves.”
A Football Life also does a great job with not telling the story, but showing the story. Vick takes viewers back to the jail cell where he reflected upon his actions for 23 months, and vowed to come back a better person and player. It was where his story of redemption began.
That story of redemption led to a memorable run in 2010 with the Eagles. They reconnect with Donovan McNabb, who had recruited, played an NFC championship game against, and was teammates with Vick during his career in Philadelphia. I vividly remember SportsCenter talking non-stop about the historic numbers the former number one overall pick was putting up (ended the year with 30 total TDs). NFL Films does a marvelous job recapturing that magic, from his first game back in Atlanta in 2009 to the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. As an Eagles fan (I know, I know), that entire season will be Vick’s gift to me.
Once Vick’s redemption as a player is complete, the documentary shows his improvement as a person. The entire transformation of Vick once he got his second chance after prison is extremely well done.
The documentary airs on NFL Network Friday night at 9 EST. Clear your calendars - this is a must watch for all football fans.
*Special thanks to NFL Films for the first look and Tim Rumpff for the interview.