Vick deeply into dogfighting, father says
QB's dad says he didn't abandon family
By BY MATT KEMPNER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/24/07
Michael Vick's father said he pushed his son to quit dogfighting years ago or, at least, put property used for the fights in the name of friends to avoid being implicated some day.
Michael Boddie, in two sometimes tearful interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week, said some time around 2001 his son staged dogfights in the garage of the family's home in Newport News, Va. Boddie also said Vick kept fighting dogs in the family's backyard, including injured ones — "bit up, chewed up, exhausted" — that the father nursed back to health.
Boddie, who is estranged from his son, dismissed the idea that Vick's longtime friends were the main instigators of the dogfighting operation.
"I wish people would stop sugarcoating it," Boddie said. "This is Mike's thing. And he knows it."
He "likes it, and he has the capital to have a set up like that."
Daniel Meachum, an attorney for Vick, said his client never mentioned situations described by Boddie, nor discussed Boddie in relation to dog activities. "It's a disgrace Mr. Boddie, who chose for nearly 22 years not to be part of Mike's life, would at this time seek to capitalize on his son's current situation."
Vick's mother, Brenda Vick Boddie, who hasn't lived with her husband for the past five years, did not return calls seeking comment.
Boddie said he and the Atlanta Falcons quarterback have had a volatile relationship for years and that his son has refused to speak with him directly for the last 2 1/2 half months. Boddie said he is speaking out because he's been hurt by his son and wife's failure over the years to correct what he considers inaccurate media reports that Vick grew up without his father present.
"I've been drug through the mud," Boddie said.
He said he intends to write a damaging book about more of what he knows.
Boddie, 45, lives in a Duluth apartment that his son has paid the rent on for the last three years. Vick, who has a $130 million contract with the Falcons, also gives him a couple of hundred dollars every week or two, the father said.
Boddie wanted more. Two years ago, he said, he asked Vick for $1 million, spread out over 12 years, enough to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life. Vick declined, the father said. In recent weeks, Boddie asked Vick, through an assistant, for $700,000 to live on.
Boddie said he hasn't been contacted by federal investigators pursuing dogfighting accusations against Vick. A federal grand jury indicted Vick with one count of conspiracy to cross state lines to engage in illegal gambling; to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture; and to buy, transport and receive dogs for animal fighting.
The indictment does not mention the parents' former home in Newport News, where Boddie said he cared for Vick's pit bulls and where he said three dogfighting session were held, roughly around the time that Vick was transitioning from college football to the pros.
Earlier this week, Vick agreed to plead guilty Monday in the federal dogfighting case in Richmond. He faces prison and the possible end of his football career. Three co-defendants already pleaded guilty and were expected to testify against Vick if the case went to trial. In addition, a Virginia prosecutor is considering bringing state charges against Vick.
Anger and anguish
Boddie lives in an apartment, just a few miles from where his son lives in the upscale, gated Sugarloaf neighborhood. Posters of the football star are thumb-tacked to the walls of a guest bedroom. A picture of Vick's two young children is framed on a wall near the kitchen. Hung on a wall beside the kitchen sink is a long list entitled "Quick Drink Recipes."
In language blanketed with profanity, a sometimes sitting, sometimes pacing Boddie recounted what he said was some, but not all, of what he knows about his son. At times while discussing his wife and children, Boddie appeared to alternate between anger and anguish. His cellphone rang several times. At one point he answered, paused, unleashed an expletive-laced torrent of words and marched out of the apartment with the phone to his ear. He later said the caller was an assistant of Michael Vick's who asked what he planned to disclose to a reporter and urged him to keep quiet.
"I know some things," Boddie said. "That's why they're going crazy."
He said he's not perfect. He said he hasn't worked since 2003, went through drug rehab in 2004 paid for by his son, was sometimes high or drunk around his children when they were young, has gotten in trouble for drinking and driving and had his driver's license revoked.
"There are some things I wish I could go back and change," he said.
But Boddie said he gave Vick something that most kids didn't have in the Newport News housing projects where both grew up: "I never left his side. Never left his mother's side. And where we come from, this day and time, that's a hell of a thing."
He and Vick's mother weren't married when Michael Vick was born. But they married later and Boddie said he lived with the family from the time Vick was 3 years old until after his eldest son went to Virginia Tech to play football. He said he was usually working during Vick's youth, often on jobs sandblasting and repainting ships.
He said he is frustrated about continued suggestions that Vick was raised without a father. He said his son and wife should have set the record straight.
But in a 2001 AJC article about their son, his wife was quoted as saying that Boddie's presence in Vick's childhood "means a lot to me."
"He was always there, providing, taking care of what needed to be taken care of. Through everything, we stayed together as a family. I have a lot of respect for him for that."
But in other press reports, both Michael Vick and his mother suggested that Boddie was an emotionally distant father. He "never paid that much attention to me," Vick said, according to a Sports Illustrated story in 2000.
Boddie said that, over the last year, his son has been disrespecting him, "talking to me like I'm one of his . . . dogs."
Boddie said he's tried to look out for his son. Around 2002, while at Vick's rural property near Smithfield, Va., he warned his son.
"I told him basically, 'You don't need to be doing this. You got bigger fish to fry. You got more important things that you can do.' "
Boddie recalled telling his son to transfer the property to the name of one of his friends: " 'Take this place right now, put it in one of their names because if anything goes wrong . . . it's you they coming after.' "
Boddie said he doesn't recall his son's reply.
Boddie also said dogfighting occurred at the family's Newport News home on Terrace Drive. The family was in the house for about a year or more as Vick moved from playing college football at Virginia Tech to the pros.
Boddie said he cleaned out the home's garage three times in 2001 to make room for dogfighting sessions held by Vick and his friends.
"I hung around long enough to actually walk in there when an actual dogfight was going on," Boddie said, but he added that he didn't stay long.
"It wasn't my thing," he said.
He said he had already witnessed test fights of dogs — in which dogs battle to see how well a prospective fighter will perform.
"It's really something to stand there and watch. You have to have the stomach for it," he said.
Boddie said Michael Vick kept pit bulls in eight cages in the backyard of the Terrace Drive home.
However, a neighbor, Willie-Mae Hansell, said she only saw one dog at the house, and never heard anything unusual there.
"I fed the dogs," Boddie said. "I've nursed them back to health, dogs that have been in fights. Raised litters of puppies."
The injured dogs could barely muster up enough strength to eat at first, he said.
Boddie contends that Vick's mother was aware of the dogfighting and said he heard her tell her son to stop it.
Boddie said of his son: "I think he basically told her, 'OK, Mama. OK, I'll stop.' "
Boddie said he wasn't aware of any dogfighting in the Newport News projects when Vick grew up there. The closest he recalled was kids being fascinated as dogs chased stray cats in a nearby lumber yard.
He said that, despite his earlier warnings to his son, he never expected Vick would someday face the dogfighting troubles he is in now.
"I thought he would have gotten out of it by then, gotten it out of his system."