Less than four years ago, Vick was convicted of a felony related to a dogfighting ring and served 19 months in jail. This past season, he led the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs and defeated their hated rivals, the Cowboys, in his only regular-season start against them.
Yet on Saturday, Feb. 5, also the day the 30-year-old QB was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Vick was given a key to the city of Dallas by Dallas mayor pro tem Dwaine Caraway -- a gesture that has caused quite a stir across Dallas and among animal activists.
What was the basis of Caraway's honor to Vick?
"The message and the kids are far greater than all this response about, 'Why give him the key to the city?'" Caraway told ESPNDallas. "He is telling kids and exchanging with them the rights and wrongs of the things that he did and encouraging kids to further their education and to not deal with the drugs. To obey their parents and pick the people they hang around.
"That's a message I would challenge anybody to say that not one kid across America shouldn't hear from people in notoriety such as Michael Vick."
Still, it's a gesture that has animal activists and the city of Dallas abuzz.
For one, Dallas mayor Tom Leppert did not endorse the honor.
"The action taken was not sanctioned by my office and was not an official ceremonial honor on behalf of the City of Dallas," Leppert said in a statement. "Official Keys to the City are presented by the Mayor, or an elected official designated by the Mayor, and reserved, on a limited basis, for an elected official of international status. Clearly, this was not the case in this situation and done without my knowledge or approval."
City officials say the key is not truly official, according to an article in The Dallas Morning News. While there is no official list of who any of the keys have been handed out to, the official keys are mainly given to foreign dignitaries under strict stipulations.
"It's shameful. I'm embarrassed that my city has given a key to a convicted felon accused of a violent, horrendous crime," Jonnie England, spokeswoman for the Metroplex Animal Coalition and a respected animal rights advocate, told the newspaper.
This isn't the first time that a city councilman's symbolic deed has raised eyebrows, though it could be the most questionable. All council members in Dallas are allowed to hand out the $25 token keys to whomever they please. KISS's Gene Simmons received an unofficial key to the city last week.
Caraway said that "a great majority" of Dallas residents would agree that this gesture was the right thing to do.
"In the eyes of many people, he's a hero," Caraway said to the Morning News.
Below is a video taken by local radio reporter Richard Hunter, who attended the event and filmed it on his cell phone. He adopted one of the dogs from Vick's home -- and tried to ask him whether he was receiving therapy for how he treated dogs, but did not get any answers from the QB.