By Brandon Niles, Big Sky Weekly contributor

Football player Michael Vick recently signed a six-year $100 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Many have criticized the Eagles for giving Vick such a large contract considering his past history.

Vick was sent to prison in 2007 on charges that he took place in a dog-fighting ring. He committed unspeakable acts toward the dogs involved and lost everything as a result. He lost his money, he became one of the most hated men in America (in sports), and he was sentenced to nearly two years in prison. As a result of this, Vick remains one of the least liked players in sports.

I’m not debating whether or not what he did was wrong. However, I believe in second chances. I believe in redemption stories. Most of all, I believe in rehabilitation. Because of this, I’m happy for Vick. Ever since he got out of prison, he’s done everything right: volunteering to help the humane society, speaking out against his past, lobbying for HR 2492, a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to be a spectator at a dog fight. He also works hard on the field and makes strides as a player and teammate with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Vick had a great year in 2010 and he remains a focal point for the future of the Eagles. Locking him up with a long-term contract is important for the success of the team. Signing a star quarterback like Vick is expensive, and the Eagles did what it took to keep him.

One can argue, however, that players make too much money in general, but I don’t like the arguments that Vick specifically doesn’t deserve it because of his past.

For those who do think his past should keep him from making the big bucks, I have a question: How much money is it okay for an ex-convict to make? It’s a fair question. If we believe in redemption stories and in the power of rehabilitation, then we should encourage ex-cons to succeed after they’ve served their sentences. If we wish to honor the idea of second chances and show people that they can turn their lives around, then why should we limit the level of success that these people can obtain? Vick did a horrible thing and suffered consequences for it that were within the full extent of the law. Vick did hard time, lost everything, and it’s been a struggle for him to rebuild his life and career.

When we look back and evaluate Vick, what outcome would we hope for? Is it that a bad man got caught, spiraled into oblivion, and never recovered? I’d much rather remember Vick as a guy who reformed, got a second chance, and made the most of it. I appreciate the impact that a reformed and active Michael Vick can make on the progress of eliminating dog fighting, and I’ll forgive a person who has served his sentence and is trying to be the best he can be.

After all, if we start to put limits on how successful ex-convicts can be, then why even let them out of prison?