MOBILE, Ala. – When Josh Huff saw Chip Kelly’s face, he knew something was up.
This was last January. Kelly had just decided to take the Eagles’ head-coaching job, but before the news leaked publicly, he wanted to address his players at Oregon.
"We were just about to start our winter workouts and he came in. I knew right then there was something going on because he’d never come into our winter workouts," Huff said. "I could just see the look on his face and he was just distraught. But he came in, gathered us up and he was just saying he wanted the challenge in the NFL. And I couldn’t do nothing but thank him for what he’s done."
The emotion was something Huff hadn't previously witnessed from the coach he played under for three seasons.
"I’d never seen Coach Kelly cry up until that point," he said. "When you see a man cry like that, that means he cares about that program, he cares about his players. And I care just as much about him as he cares about me."
Huff did just fine in his senior season without Kelly, blowing up for 62 catches, 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 5-11, 201, he doesn't have one single characteristic that is going to wow scouts. But he is productive, versatile and physical. Some projections list him as a mid-round pick.
Meanwhile, on Sundays last fall, Huff kept an eye on the Eagles, confident that his former coach would prove doubters wrong.
"The reason that he left was he wanted to take on the challenge because people thought that his offense wouldn’t work in the NFL," Huff said. "And look what it did his first year. It’s only gonna continue to get better as players get more comfortable in the offense. I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for the Eagles."
And Huff wouldn't mind being part of Year 2 under Kelly. While the Eagles' offense was not identical to what Kelly ran at Oregon, Huff noticed a lot of similarities.
Asked for his favorite memory of Kelly, Huff recalled a game against Stanford his sophomore year.
"It was halftime and he came in... it was a close battle and he came in and I’ve never seen him so fired up," Huff said. "He came in, flipped the table over, he was cussing a little bit. It fired the whole team up. Eventually we went out there in the second half and did what we had to do, made plays and came out with a victory."
Huff got a chance briefly to catch up with Kelly down in Mobile.
"I just saw him today and I gave him a big hug and told him that I missed him," he said.
Perhaps a longer reunion will be arranged come draft time.
WHAT YOU MISSED
T-Mac provides an update on Jeremy Maclin.
The Senior Bowl diary began with a look at the weigh-in.
Ten observations from the weekend's title games with an Eagles slant.
Do the Eagles have enough playmakers? McManus takes a look.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Richard Sherman explains himself in a column on The MMQB:
It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am. I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person. When I say I’m the best cornerback in football, it’s with a caveat: There isn’t a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn’t have a great front seven. Everything begins with pressure up front, and that’s what we get from our pass rushers every Sunday. To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field—don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.
Matt Smith of NFL.com has the Eagles taking Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard with the 22nd pick:
The offense is in great shape. Even the offensive line looks sound. They need help on defense, particularly in the secondary. Dennard is good value here.
More from Mobile, including a look at one outside linebacker the Eagles could have interest in.