Vick's Dad Traces Dogs To Son's Childhood
Friday, August 24, 2007
It all started, Michael Vick's estranged father said, when the Atlanta Falcons quarterback was a child growing up in a rough area of Newport News, Va., and would join other neighborhood kids in setting loose a dog every so often to watch it chase a cat around a nearby lumberyard.
Vick's "fascination with animals" eventually would lead him to be an active participant in a dogfighting operation, Michael Boddie said in an interview yesterday in which he traced his son's involvement in the illegal activity to Vick's college days at Virginia Tech. Boddie said he was dismissed by his son when he tried to convince Vick that being involved in dogfighting was potentially harmful to his career.
"He said, 'Yeah, I know. But I've got it. I've got it well in hand,' " Boddie said.
As Vick prepares to plead guilty Monday to a federal dogfighting charge, family members have remained silent about the circumstances that led to his indictment. Boddie, whose relationship with Vick is so strained that the quarterback no longer speaks to him, offered his perspective on his son's legal troubles in a telephone interview. Some aspects of Boddie's account could not be verified through other sources, and one assertion -- that Vick held dogfights in the family's Newport News home in 2000 and 2001 -- was disputed by a former neighbor who remains a family friend. And Boddie acknowledged he asked his son, whose contract is worth $130 million, for $700,000 recently but was turned down.
Vick was not available to comment and his Washington-based attorney, William R. (Billy) Martin, did not respond to messages seeking a response. The Washington Post, seeking to verify Boddie's account, provided Martin's office with Boddie's version of events. A spokesperson for Vick's defense team replied with a statement attributed to another of Vick's lawyers, Daniel Meachum, that said: "It is a disgrace that Mr. Boddie, who chose for nearly 22 years not to be part of Mike's life, would at this time seek to capitalize on his son's current situation." The statement did not address the specifics of Boddie's account.
Several people around Vick have blamed his downfall on his inability to cut ties with questionable associates from his past. Boddie, who lives in the Newport News area but said he was in Atlanta yesterday, said Vick is "a good-hearted person" who couldn't bring himself to get rid of a circle of friends dependent on him for money. Boddie said two of those friends, co-defendants Tony Taylor and Purnell Peace, introduced Vick to dogfighting.
But Boddie added of Vick: "Nobody dragged him. My son has a fascination with animals anyway. He's a natural dog lover. In our neighborhood in the projects, little boys would get dogs to chase cats in the lumberyard. The big thing with little boys, [they'd] get a dog and sic 'em on the cats. That's what they'd do for fun . . . Yeah, [Vick] did that as a kid. Every little boy in the projects did that. It's a fascination thing. That's just part of his culture growing up.
"When he got into the dogfighting thing, that's the whole gladiator thing. It's like watching 'National Geographic' on TV. It's like watching two men fight. It's the sport. It's the sport of it, to him."
Boddie said his son had a pit bull named Champagne in college that was not a fighting dog. He said he suspects Vick became involved in dogfighting in 1999 or 2000, before he became the top overall selection in the 2001 NFL draft.
"I think he must have started getting into it when he was in college," Boddie said. "I'm not sure, but that's what I think."
Boddie said he never attended a dogfight with his son but he did raise pit bull puppies for him, care for injured dogs and prepare the garage at the family's one-time home in Newport News on three occasions in 2000 and 2001 to host fights.
"I sat there and watched them test dogs against each other" to see which dogs were suited for fighting, Boddie said. "I raised a couple puppy litters for him, and I've brought back to health dogs that were injured in fights for him. I have nursed those dogs back to health . . . I cleaned out the garage three times so they could have fights right there."