He’s won and lost. He’s been loved and hated. He’s been jailed and freed. NFL star Michael Vick, 32, has not had it easy these last five years, and he admits most of that is his own fault. No one told him to participate in a vicious dogfighting ring. No one told him to lose all his money. And no one told him to write a memoir, Michael Vick: Finally Free, but he did. And this time, he’s coming clean and setting the record completely straight.

Vick knows he likely won’t ever live down going to jail for abusing animals, but he’s tired of people knowing only half the story. While serving time in Leavenworth, he took a tiny pen in his big hands and, on simple notebook paper, handwrote his memoir. He’s learned a lot and is grateful to still be the starting QB for the Philadelphia Eagles, with whom he signed a six-year, $35.5 million contract.

Here’s what he had to say:

EBONY: Why did you write this book?

Vick: I wanted to let people see a different side; to let them get to know me and to answer a lot of questions so they can understand why a certain chain of events happened. I think people still have unsavory perceptions of me. These all stem from the media. I’ve talked about [the dogfighting], but I can’t tell my life story in 20 minutes during a sit-down interview or talking to a group of people.

[The book’s] about what people don’t know.

EBONY: You wrote your life story by hand?

Vick: When I was in prison, I had no one to talk to. I wrote it on notebook paper, and I used one of the small prison pens, the ones that make callouses on your fingers. I hated writing with it. I had a real pen at one time, but they took it from me.

EBONY: We have to ask the race question. Do you think you were unfairly villainized because you are Black?

Vick: That’s the best question I got all day. Of course, our people, Black people, feel like I got a bad break. But people of other races feel like it was fair. And I think there are a lot of mixed feelings and a lot of mixed emotions. But I do have a wide base, very diverse, and I appreciate everybody’s support because I get people coming up to me—White, Black and others—talking about my situation. Some felt like it wasn’t the right verdict; some felt like it should not have gone that far.

EBONY: What I wanted to do [in my memoir] was clean everything up so people can [draw their own conclusions]: This is what I did, and this is how I conducted myself. Whether it was positive or negative, I did these things. Now I’m trying to move forward and make things right. There was just too much controversy behind the verdict and the prison sentence.

Don’t hold back now! Tell us how you really feel.

Vick: I had to take a lot of things out. I had to make sure everything was worded the right way.

EBONY: Is life normal again? If not, do you think it will ever be?

Vick: I’m tired of people bringing it up when I’m at Walmart or at Target or sitting down eating dinner with my family. If anyone asks me about it in the future, I’ll tell them to go buy my book.

EBONY: So is it safe to ask if you should be my primary quarterback for fantasy football? Do you think your schedule is pretty easy?

Vick: This season is pretty tough. You don’t [ever] have an easy slate. It’s never easy. Trust me. [New England Patriots QB] Tom Brady would probably tell you the same thing.