KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This was after Andy Reid had already helped rescue Michael Vick, after Reid had called and offered the opportunity to continue a football dream shattered by an 21-month prison stay for the quarterback’s role in a dogfighting conspiracy.
Reid’s 29-year-old son, Garrett, had died from a heroin overdose in August 2012 at Eagles training camp in Bethlehem, Pa. The entire organization hurt for Reid. No one more than Michael Vick.
“It was a tough moment, probably one of the hardest years of my life, 2012,” Vick told The Post. “He was there for me when I went through some tough times. I felt like it was my responsibility to be there for him best as I could through his trying times.
“We all were kinda in shock. It hurt me more to see Andy hurt. I would much rather it had been me in that situation because he was such a beautiful person.
“But the thing about Andy, man, he made all of us stronger. He made all of us believe. He told us that things happen in life, man, and you have to continue to press forward. So we all kinds piggybacked off his leadership like we always did. It was painful, but we found a way to get through it.”
Vick had lost two close family members earlier that year, including his wife’s mother.
One more time, a call from Reid came when Vick needed it the most.
“I remember a day when I was just exhausted, late May, laying on the couch crying uncontrollably,” Vick said, “and my phone rings and it’s Andy. And by the time we got off the phone, I was laughing uncontrollably. And that was because of Andy’s infectious way of making me see life for what it was. It was probably one of my greatest moments as a man in our relationship, because his sense of humor that day made me see life in a different sense. I was able to get up off the couch, and I was stronger, and I was ready to play some football.”
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When Vick was released from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., in May 2009, he was no longer the highest-paid player in football. He was hoping for a second chance he did not know would come. It was Reid who called offering him that chance behind Donovan McNabb.
“He wanted to help me throughout the process,” Vick said. “It was not just about football, it was about helping me recover, and coming back to play some good football again.”
Vick had been mentored by Tony Dungy, but had never met Reid.
“When I first met him in person I just thought he was the coolest man on earth,” Vick said. “Way cooler than what I’d seen in his postgame interviews. He comes off with a scary demeanor based on his look, he looks really, really intimidating, but I just saw that he was a good man and a beautiful person on the inside, and had a great sense of humor. That stood out more than anything. It’s something that I really didn’t expect from him.”
First, Vick, who was 29 at the time, had to get into shape.
“I tried extra running, which I don’t like, I love to run but don’t like running long distance,” Vick said.
“He brought in people for me to sit down with and just talk to. It was a bunch of conversations about life in general. He didn’t try to just boggle me down with all these terms based on morals and values and things that I needed to get done. He treated me like a grown man, basically, saying, ‘Look, this is your opportunity to do it right, I’m gonna help you. Anything you need, my door is always open,’ and I took advantage of it.”
Vick had learned patience in prison. Now he was learning it on the football field.
“He always praised me on my vision to see the field and that gave me confidence to continue to use that as an asset,” Vick said. “I think what makes him a great coach is his ability to call plays and know what the defense is thinking, being two steps ahead like chess.”
Reid named Vick his starter in September 2010, and he was on his way to back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons and a six-year, $100 million deal. They spent four seasons together in Philadelphia.
“I remember just a sense of calmness and appreciation for the game or football,” Vick said. “Missed everything about football. When I got it back I was ecstatic and just wanted to hold on to it as long as I could. Embrace every moment, embrace my teammates.”
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The bond between the two would never be broken. Following Vick’s retirement on Feb. 3, 2017, Reid reached out yet again, offering Vick a job as a Chiefs coaching intern at 2017 training camp. The experience intrigued Vick enough for him to harbor dreams one day of coaching his alma mater, Virginia Tech.
“It was fun,” Vick said. “Andy was actually surprised, he didn’t think I would work as hard as I did. I was at every meeting, I took a lot of notes. It’s a lot of responsibility and you have to be ready for it. Coaching young guys or football players is not the easiest thing to do in the world. I think I got that patience to be a coach.”
Vick got to see Reid’s prized project, Patrick Mahomes, up close.
“Patrick’s cool, man,” Vick said. “He had all the qualities of a great young quarterback then and it’s showing up now.”
Vick liked everything about young Mahomes, who was first serving his apprenticeship under Alex Smith.
“Andy wouldn’t have drafted him if he wasn’t a good kid,” Vick said. “The only way Andy can work with you is if you’re a good kid.”
Vick is not surprised Mahomes has taken the league by storm and taken Reid to Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Patriots.
“The throws that I saw him make showed all the potential,” Vick said. “How smart he was showed that he had what it took to play at that level. I’m not surprised at all. Andy’s a great coach — you give him a great quarterback with some guts and guile, he’ll make it happen.”
Reid made so much happen for Vick, who is eternally grateful.
“He truly cares about his players, whether you’re playing for him currently or they’re retired,” Vick said. “He’s a guy that’s gonna always be in your corner.”
Vick, tremendously insightful about the game of football and life, will be in Los Angeles on Sunday working for Fox and cheering for Reid from afar. Reid has not won a Super Bowl. It is the only blemish on his glorious résumé. Can he win The Big One? And if he does?
“This will definitely cement Andy’s legacy as one of the greatest football coaches of all time,” Vick said. “This will mean everything to Andy, and I’m praying that he gets it.”