Raising and training pit bulls on his rural Virginia home got Vick booted out of the NFL for two years straight, landing him straight into the federal pen at Leavenworth.
"I wish I could have a dog right now more than anything in the world," Vick admitted while acknowledging that his judge has banned him from owning dogs after a lifetime spent with the animals.
"My goal now is to help more animals than I hurt and help turn a negative situation in a positive," he added.
His New Jersey appearance was about the sixth he's made with the Humane Society of the United States since his release from prison and house arrest back in July. And there will be more.
"He's said he will do this for many years," said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle.
Pacelle said Vick's appearances are voluntary, not part of any parole.
"I should have known better," Vick admitted to a couple of hundred kids at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Newark.
He said he's hopeful one day he'll have a dog again. "I don't know when that day is going to come. It's up to my judge at his discretion," he said.
The school kids from across Newark took his message to heart.
"I think it's (dogfighting) bad, you shouldn't hurt any living creature at all," an 8-year-old said.
When asked by one of the children why he participated in dog fighting, Vick responded: "I don't understand why to this day." But he told them, "use me as an example for you not to do the things that would lead you down the wrong path."