Michael Vick took a most unusual path to The Associated Press' 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award he received Saturday night.
In the 12-year history of the honor, no player has returned from jail to win it.
After missing two seasons while serving a federal sentence for dogfighting, then spending most of the previous year as a seldom-used backup in Philadelphia, Vick was back at his best in 2010. Taking over as starter in Week 2 after Kevin Kolb sustained a concussion, Vick ran and passed the Eagles to the NFC East title and a 10-6 record.
Vick also displayed the kind of reformation away from the game that impressed a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. Vick received 29½ votes for the award, easily beating Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams, who got eight.
"It's unbelievable," Vick said Saturday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access," which exclusively revealed the award, in conjunction with The AP. "I have to give all glory to God and thank my coaches and my teammates. They put me in this position, they got me better as an NFL player, as a quarterback. They took advantage of my talents."
Vick said he never had more fun playing football than he did during his second season with the Eagles.
"I've come a long way," he said. "I hate to re-live the past, I always want to move forward, but everything happens for a reason. Being a part of the Philadelphia Eagles, having the type of season I had, being around the type of players I've been around, and having the type of coaching I've had over the last year and a half has been destined."
Eagles coach Andy Reid, who dealt with family problems when two of his sons were arrested on drug charges, believed Vick could turn around his life. Few of Vick's supporters have been as staunchly behind him as Reid.
"He had a plan, and he stuck to that, both on and off the field," Reid said. "He knew certain things he wanted to get better at, and he was open to the coaching on it, and he got himself back into shape. ... So he did a great job with the football part of it.
"And then he spends a tremendous amount of time in the public, in particular on his days off ... speaking and doing the best he can to right the wrong. You can never erase that, but you can sure help change others from falling into that same problem."
A star in Atlanta for most of his six seasons as a Falcon after being selected first overall in the 2001 draft, Vick missed 2007 and 2008 while incarcerated for 18 months in a federal prison. The Eagles signed him to a two-year contract worth 6.8 million; he once had a $130 million Falcons deal that was the NFL's richest.
Vick threw for five touchdowns overall in his first two starts, both wins, then damaged rib cartilage against Washington, forcing him out for 3½ games. But Reid let him keep the job, and Vick was even more dynamic when he returned.
In a Monday nighter against the Redskins, Vick had a performance for the ages, throwing for four touchdowns and running for two in a 59-28 win.
"Michael has great instincts. Michael's got it all at this point," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "Really, the most important quality, in my opinion, for a quarterback to have is gut instincts, then comes the decision-making and the timing and accuracy. Then comes the big arm and athleticism and those types of things. The gut instincts are critical for a quarterback, and you can see that."
Not only did Vick make a remarkable turnaround on the field, but his image is improving away from the game. Last month, Vick signed his first paid endorsement contract since his release from prison, a two-year deal with Unequal Technologies, a provider of the football pads that the quarterback wore most of this season.
Vick reiterated on "NFL Total Access" that he wasn't affiliated with a Super Bowl party held in Dallas this week, despite it being advertised as being hosted by Michael Vick.
"Early on, I tried to put a stop to it, just couldn't do it," Vick said. "The good thing is I didn't attend."
Vick also said he was happy with his contract status with the Eagles, who will put the franchise tag on him for the 2011 season.
"Whatever happens, happens," he said. "I put that into my agent's hands, Joel Segal, let him handle the contract situation. I'm very optimistic that things will work out."
Also receiving votes were Minnesota Vikings linebacker E.J.Henderson (3½), New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (2 each), and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Seahawks running back/kick ereturner Leon Washington and Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back LeGarrette Blount (one each).
Polamalu won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award earlier this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.