Michael Vick, the beneficiary of a second chance from the NFL, gave the commencement address Friday for students given a second chance to graduate from high school.
About 450 students from Camelot Schools in Philadelphia were awarded diplomas at the Kimmel Center during a ceremony highlighted by a nine-minute speech from the Eagles quarterback.
Camelot takes students who have dropped out of other schools, fallen at least two grades behind, or been expelled for bad behavior.
"You proved your ability to overcome adversity, do the right thing, and finish school," Vick told the wildly enthusiastic graduates.
During his talk, Vick announced that he had established a foundation and awarded $5,000 scholarships to two Camelot students: Monica Joseph, 18, and Rickey Savage, 19.
Vick recounted how he was a wealthy athlete who lost everything when he pleaded guilty to interstate dogfighting and was sentenced to federal prison in 2007.
After his release in 2009, he was given another chance to play when the NFL lifted his indefinite suspension and he signed with the Eagles.
Vick said his downfall was the result of irrational decisions, and he warned the graduates to "think before you speak, think before you act, think before you make decisions in your life."
Before the ceremony, Vick met privately with about 30 Camelot students, then answered questions from reporters.
He joked that he was throwing away his notes and doing the speech off the cuff.
"Naw, I've been practicing a couple days," he said. "You know, I haven't done this before. It's my first time, so everybody will have to bear with me. But I think I'll do pretty good."
Kirk Dorn, a spokesman for Camelot Schools L.L.C., said the company had asked Vick to be the speaker because students would be able to identify with him.
Vick was asked by a reporter for his reaction to speculation that Plaxico Burress, another football star who just got out of prison, was interested in playing with the Eagles.
"That's great to hear, so we'll see what happens," Vick said.
He added, however, "I'll leave it up to Andy and Jeffrey and Joe to make those decisions," referring to coach Andy Reid, owner Jeffrey Lurie, and team president Joe Banner.