The conversation took place 15 years ago at a summer football camp. But to this day, Michael Vick remembers the encouragement and advice he received from NFL superstar Bruce Smith.
"He sat down and told me I had all the skills and all the talent to go to the next level," Vick said. "But the most important thing was to keep my head on straight. I took his advice, and to this day I thank him whenever we talk.
"It's amazing how just saying a couple of key words to kids can generate dreams. And that's what we need from our kids who are growing up in rough times and poverty-stricken areas who don't have any hope."
That, he stressed, is what the Michael Vick Football Camp will be all about. Vick was in town to promote the camp, which will be held June 23-25 at Hampton University, at a press conference Friday afternoon.
Several big names from the NFL — including Donovan McNabb ( Washington Redskins), Vince Young ( Tennessee Titans), Adrian Peterson ( Minnesota Vikings) and Percy Harvin (Minnesota Vikings) have committed to attend the camp.
So has former NFL quarterback Aaron Brooks, the Ferguson graduate and Vick's second cousin. And so has Smith, who is now retired an in the NFL Hall of Fame.
"It's a brotherhood in the NFL, and we all support one another," Vick said. "Vince Young … I think he has a very intriguing story, how he was resilient in his comeback.
"Whenever you're mentoring a kid and you show them you care about their well-being, it's a special moment. It goes a long way. It did for me. Time spent with kids — just talking with an NFL player for 15 seconds — can spark a dream. That's the purpose of this camp."
Vick said he always has wanted to have a football camp in Hampton Roads. His former high school coach, Tommy Reamon, is thrilled that he has.
"This is an opportunity for him to let them know who he is," Reamon said. "They can learn from him."
Hampton coach Donovan Rose said he appreciated Vick coming.
"When I found out I had an opportunity to work with Michael Vick, I jumped at the chance," Rose said.
"A lot of us, we have certain platforms we stand on. But all of us have something we can give back. I think this is going to be a great partnership."
Vick said the camp will also include a life skills training session, which he added might be the most "intense" part.
"We'll have open dialogue with the kids and share stories," he said.
"We want to give them the best outlook. We want them to know there's a way to solve problems without resorting to violence. And give them hope.
"The goal for them is to stay optimistic. But they have to know it's going to be tough and that nothing comes easy."
Going camping WHEN: June 23-25.WHERE: Hampton U.COST: $300 overnight, $225 day, $85 one day.MORE INFO: Contact Keith Goganious at 728-6962 or at keith.goganious@ hamptonu.edu.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun