NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick advised students at his old middle school Monday to avoid the kind of bad decisions that landed him in federal prison for dogfighting.
Vick spoke to about 400 sixth- and seventh-graders at Huntington Middle School - the first of his two homecomings within a week. The Eagles play Sunday at Atlanta, where Vick was the NFL's richest and perhaps most dynamic player before his stunning fall.
The former Virginia Tech star's appearance was sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States. Vick has been working with the group since his release from federal custody in July, taking his anti-dogfighting message to schools and community groups in several cities.
The Newport News event was closed to the public and the press, and Vick did not speak to reporters waiting outside.
Humane Society spokesman Dale Bartlett, who was inside the school auditorium for the 30-minute speech and question-and-answer session, said Vick came across as sincerely remorseful.
"These kids heard a message against dogfighting today that they couldn't have heard anywhere else," Bartlett said.
He said the kids asked some tough questions, including why Vick didn't acknowledge his wrongdoing and express remorse until after it was clear he could no longer hide the truth. Bartlett said Vick admitted that he thought he could get away with it because he was wealthy, and he encouraged the students to always tell the truth from the start.
Vick was convicted in August 2007 and sentenced to 23 months for operating a dogfighting ring from his property in rural southeastern Virginia. He served 18 months in the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., and two months on home confinement in Hampton, Va. The Eagles signed him to a one-year deal shortly after his release, and he has played sparingly behind starter Donovan McNabb.