Jackie Gingrich Cushman

After signing a 10-year, $130-million contract with the Atlanta Falcons less than three years ago, Michael Vick appeared to have it all – and maybe he did – but only for a moment. In the last few days, he has plummeted from role model and hero to despised dog abuser.

On Aug. 24, Vick pleaded guilty to one count of "conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture." Sentencing is set for December 10. The former NFL No. 1 draft pick from Virginia Tech could face up to five years in a federal prison, but prosecutors have agreed to seek a lesser punishment.

Michael McCann, an assistant professor at Mississippi College School of Law, estimates that what Vick called his "bad judgment, making bad decisions, could cost the quarterback up to $144 million in lost pay, bonuses and endorsements. On Aug. 27, Vick apologized publicly. "I was not honest and forthright in our discussions," Vick said, referring to his interaction with law enforcement authorities, the NFL and the Falcons.

Vick said he was most upset with himself for having let down children who view him as a role model. "I hope that every young kid out there in the world watching this interview right now who's been following the case will use me as an example to using better judgment and making better decisions," he said.

Vick may find solace in knowing that, after hearing his story, both my children concluded that it was good neither to be involved in dog fighting nor to lie. I hope all of the millions of children who once looked up to Vick as a hero and have slept in a number 7 Falcons jersey reach the same conclusion. Vick has said his new goal is to focus on "how to make Michael Vick a better person."

He might be able to learn from another quarterback who had his own share of problems. Although a bit younger than Vick (24 vs. 27), Colt Brennan, senior quarterback at the University of Hawaii, had a brush with the law in 2004 that resulted in his being convicted of second-degree burglary and first-degree criminal trespass. This occurred when he was a freshman at the University of Colorado and appears to have made a lasting impact on the player.

Brennan left Boulder and attended Saddleback Community College in the fall of 2004. He moved to the University of Hawaii in the fall of 2005, where he regained his footing and is in the running for the Heismann Trophy. During his apology speech, Vick said, "I found Jesus, I asked him for forgiveness, I turned my life over to God."


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.