Michael Vick pays down his debt

When Michael Vick filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2008, his only income came from mopping floors at 12 cents an hour in the early morning hours at Leavenworth prison.

Less than seven years later, Vick is weeks away from paying off the majority of the nearly $18 million he owed his creditors.

Since getting out of prison, where he served 548 days for taking part in an illegal dogfighting ring, Vick hasn't fully returned to his former self on the field, showing only flashes of the player he was before his career and life were derailed. But his financial comeback, while less public, has been quite successful.

While his actions involving dogs led some to believe he would never get back on the football field again, this year is Vick's sixth season of playing after serving his prison sentence. That's equal to the number of years Vick played before his prison term.

In the five-year period (2010 to 2014) in which he agreed to go on a restrictive budget to pay back his creditors, Vick earned more than $49 million during four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and one with the New York Jets.

Joseph Luzinski, a senior vice president at Development Specialists Inc., a management consultancy firm and the liquidating trustee in Vick's bankruptcy, said that because of the amount of money Vick made, he has paid off more than $15 million (84.7 percent) of the $17.8 million he owed. Luzinski said there is still a real estate asset to be sold after Vick's deal with his creditors ends Dec. 31, which could raise the amount he has repaid.

"What Michael did was the exception, not the rule," Luzinski said. "He didn't have to do this. The law allows you to skate by and pay your creditors 10 or 20 cents on the dollar, but he thought this was the right thing to do."

Vick said he could have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 11, which he ultimately chose. The former would have meant most of his debts would have been forgiven.

"I didn't want to stiff people who never stiffed me," Vick said.

He said he is thrilled the plan worked out.

"I feel blessed because I came out and found myself in a position where I had a lot of people that really believed in me, people who gave me an opportunity," Vick said. "At the time, it wasn't about trying to fulfill all the bankruptcy needs. I was trying to fulfill all the needs that I had in my life because I had nothing."

"I had never been on a budget before, so I had to pay attention to everything that I was doing. Now I realize that I don't need certain things I bought back in the day, like a new boat."
Michael Vick

Even as Vick resumed his playing career and started making money again, it wasn't clear this day would come. In fact, the Atlanta Falcons, who in March 2009 settled with Vick to get $6.5 million in salary back, might not have had faith that Vick would come through. Less than two years into Vick's attempt to pay off his creditors, the Falcons got out.

In March 2011, the team sold its liability to Fortress Capital, the investment firm that was co-founded by Milwaukee Bucks owner Wesley Edens. What Fortress paid in hopes of getting the $6.5 million back is unclear, as the documentation of the transaction submitted to the court doesn't disclose the amount. But it can be assumed that the deal came at enough of a discount to appeal to Fortress, which manages $66 billion.

Fortress spokesman Gordon Runte declined to comment. A call placed to the Falcons for comment was not immediately returned.

For the Falcons, Vick said making the call on waiting for the money was "hit or miss."

"That was like playing the lottery," Vick said. "They didn't know if I was going to fully come back, and if you were to ask me, I would have done the same thing. But that's just how God worked in this situation."

As part of the plan to pay off his creditors, Vick stuck to living on a $300,000 budget, because more than 50 percent of what he was making went toward taxes and legal fees.

"I had never been on a budget before, so I had to pay attention to everything that I was doing," Vick said. "Now I realize that I don't need certain things I bought back in the day, like a new boat."

Vick's wife, Kijafa, said money doesn't have the same appeal it used to. She said she will never forget the times when one of their daughters would spend all day in the house searching for Michael, who was in prison at the time.

"Money is not what makes us happy," she said. "What makes us happy is to have him with us."

Vick says when he goes back to his normal lifestyle after the end of the month, he won't spend money like he used to.

"But I'm still a car guy," he said. "So I'll still buy cars."