Yesterday I attended the Eagles Academy For Men at the Nova Care Complex. For those of you who were wondering what it was all about I’ve decided to provide you some details along with pictures to give you an idea of what you can expect in case you decide you want to check it out next year. It was a lot of fun and provided a taste of Eagle football to help with my withdraw symptoms during this painful lock out.
The day started with a great motivational speech by former Eagles linebacker and current radio analyst Kevin Reilly. After that we were all broken up into 4 separate “teams” (groups) of about 15 – 20 people each so we could all rotate between activites throughout the day. Each activity was about 20 minutes in length so the program ran at a swift pace. This was good in that it kept you active but there were a few times I wished we had a few more minutes at the end because the question and answer periods were very interesting.
First up was a film session with Eagles Tight Ends Coach Tom Melvin. He broke down some offensive plays and explained how a QB goes through his progressions. He used terms such as 1st and 2nd “narrow vision” which describes how the QB zooms in on each receiver in his progression. Melvin also went over how the QB reads the coverages presented by the defense. If the CB’s are in off-coverage it means the QB should throw away from the rotation of the safeties and if they are playing press coverage it means you can’t throw to the outside. Melvin also focused on what kinds of routes receivers run and how they need to read the defense as well.
Next up we broke down some game film and talked about scouting (college) with Kevin Reilly. We viewed game tape of Danny Watkins and Jaiquawn Jarrett. This was interesting because he pointed out things you may not have noticed before about a player’s play. Let me tell you, after viewing some film I can say that Danny Watkins’ reputation for playing with attitude is certainly deserved. He plays until the whistle, finishes his blocks, and has excellent strength and agility.
Reilly stated that he knew many people had concerns about Jarrett’s coverage ability so he decided to concentrate on that in the film study. Though we didn’t see tape of Jaiquawn breaking up passes, Reilly pointed out more subtle things about how he can read plays, make sure tackles, and not allow yards after the catch.
One quick thing worth noting from Kevin Reilly: He agrees that Kolb will be traded and that he “has heard” the Eagles will get a 1st and 4th round draft picks.
Next on the agenda a visit to the weight room where Eagles strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin talked about off-season workout routines…well, what they would be doing if there wasn’t a lockout. Rubin is a knowledgable guy and is well liked by the players. He was actually inducted into the USA Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame for his contributions to this field.
After the visit to the weight room we went to another classroom to break down defensive game tape with former Eagles DT Darwin Walker. This was my favorite part of the day because instead of actually going over game tape, we instead spent the entire time talking about Darwin’s personal experiences in the NFL. I think everyone enjoyed this session because he was giving us “real life” stories and told us a few things that you won’t hear anywhere else. In respect to Darwin I don’t feel I can publicly write what he said but I will tell you one thing…there are definitely “back door” or “dark alley” deals done in the NFL! The session was very informative and entertaining, Walker is definitely a very cool person.
The next few things consisted of a visit to the players’ lockerroom and then lunch (which was included). The food they served was good…it consisted of seasoned chicken, salmon, italian hoagies, burgers, some veggies, crab tortellini, salad, and cookies. This served as the transition between inside and outside activities.
The afternoon consisted of all the physical activities out on the practice field. First we did warmups that included some brief running and stretching. This was actually pretty funny because for one, we just ate…and for two, many of us were not too flexible so there was a lot of grunting going on!
The field was set up with 4 stations, each with a different activity. One station is where we played some 3 on 3 against some interns and each other. Another one had Swoop out there putting balls in the jugs machine that simulated punts. We fielded the ball and “returned” it through a small obstacle course with a place to dive at the end. Sometimes Swoop would come out and try to tackle you (so I decided to do a Jerome Bettis impression and ran over him…just kidding).
Ex-Eagle OT Tra Thomas led one of the activities where he showed us some footwork for offensive linemen and how to “punch block”. Tra was very engaging and seemed to be having a good time with us. He answered many questions about anything and was gracious with taking pictures and shaking hands. And he is one HUGE guy!
The last activity was similar to a drill you would see a receiver do at the NFL Combine. You start by running straight out and people lined up in different spots would each throw you a pass from a different direction. You would make the catch, drop it, turn and make the next catch, drop it and then run for the long bomb.
The entire day lasted about 4 and 1/2 hours, including a 30 minute lunch break. We received an autographed picture of Tra Thomas, a nice big framed picture of DeSean Jackson commemorating his electrifying punt return for Miracle of the Meadowlands II, a nice Reebok Eagles hat, and other various things.
If you are an Eagles fan or just looking to go have some Eagles football related fun with some buddies, I would certainly recommend checking out Eagles Academy next year. Each year there are different coaches and players that you can meet and talk to. Last year Troy Vincent was there and on this past Saturday Charlie Casserly was there as well. You can gain some insight into the game of football as well as enjoy some interaction with former Eagles players. You might even get some “inside information”!
Here are a few more pics from my day at the Academy…