MICHAEL VICK stood in the corner of a Northeast Philadelphia Modell's on Wednesday afternoon, beaming with pride. Surrounded by kids adorned in his new V7 clothing line, Vick revealed that he has longed to launch a brand for his fans reflective of himself.
Fittingly, he sported a midnight green shirt with black and white lettering emblazoned across the chest: 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish.'
It's a motto that Vick applies to his image, which he admitted is still far from restored. The slogan now headlines his new performance apparel collection, which will be exclusively available at Modell's stores in the Northeast region with part of the proceeds going to the Boys and Girls Clubs.
"I am very thankful I have the fan appreciation and support that I have," Vick said. "I do things like this in return, to show I have just as much respect and love for them."
But for Eagles fans across the Delaware Valley, their quarterback's favorite catchphrase no doubt evokes in their minds something a little different — a certain elusive trophy usually won in February. After spending three seasons in this pro football hotbed, Vick understands.
"It would mean so much for me to give this city what they deserve," Vick said, pausing between words seemingly for emphasis. "And that is why I work as hard as I have been working, why my focus is different now, why I am a different person and a different quarterback right now."
The Eagles have had what many pundits consider to be an excellent offseason. Their draft was nationally extolled, they acquired the middle linebacker that their fans covet in DeMeco Ryans and they were able to extend the contract of several critical players.
After last year's melee of free-agent signings and lockout complications, this offseason has been encouragingly serene. Combine that with the notion that it is No. 7's first full offseason as the Eagles' starting quarterback, and the optimists in this town are dreaming big.
"There is definitely a sense of urgency, but it should be that way," Vick said. "We got the chips lined up the way we want them. If we keep our guys healthy — especially coming off a great spring of minicamps and OTAs — we really have an optimistic feeling about this season. We feel like we have everything in our favor."
Most veterans are not required to report to training camp for 2 more weeks, and surely Vick will take some time between now and then to relax. While no player likes the grueling grind of camp, Vick confessed that this year he feels something a little different in the air.
"Usually I don't want to go camp," he said. "That part I will admit. But this year, I feel like we're going to have fun with it. We're going to really enjoy it and make the most out of it. I'm excited. Like I said, I have never been this excited for a season."
The Phillies have stumbled through the All-Star break in last place and the playoff runs of the Flyers and Sixers are but a memory. The perch atop the pantheon of Philadelphia sports is currently vacant and the town is desperate for its football team to return to its familiar position.
"We understand what is at stake," Vick said. "We know and we're excited about it. That is what it's all about."
But on Wednesday, as an autograph line of hundreds zigzagged its way through the Modell's clothing racks, Vick expressed his gratitude for being able to satisfy the fans he loves in a place that is now special to him.
"I don't think I could have landed in a better city," he said.
Eagles to stay at Lehigh
The Eagles and Lehigh University announced a contract agreement on Wednesday that will keep the team's training camp in Bethlehem through 2013. The Eagles have trained at Lehigh since 1996. While many NFL teams have recently chosen to move their camps to closer-to-home, less fan-friendly facilities, the Eagles are content with their current arrangement.
"Lehigh University has been an incredible partner of ours, and we couldn't be more excited about returning for an 18th training camp in 2013," said Eagles president Don Smolenski. "They provide us with first-class accommodations year in and year out — not only for the players, coaches and staff, but also for the thousands of fans who attend the practices every day."