Agholor: Football Broke the Culture Barrier
As Nelson Agholor fielded questions in the NovaCare Complex auditorium, Chip Kelly stood off to the side and observed his newest pupil.
Perhaps Kelly wanted to show support for the Eagles’ first-round pick, or maybe he was just killing time before the start of the second round. But with each response, it became clearer why Agholor was a player Kelly targeted.
The USC product moved with his family to America from Nigeria when he was 5. They started out in New York before moving down to Tampa.
“[Football] actually broke the culture barrier,” Agholor said. “A lot of the kids in the neighborhood when I was younger, they played street football, and my brothers and sisters always wanted to get outside and play. And these kids were playing the game. I felt like if we get out there and we learn, they’ll accept us a little bit better, and they did.”
It’s the little things that Kelly appreciates in Agholor. Like how when he came to the NovaCare Complex for an official visit, the film-watching session dragged on because the wide receiver kept asking questions. Or how last year Agholor decided on his own to go check out a Tampa Bay Bucs practice just to see how professionals operate on a daily basis.
“It comes down to progression,” Agholor said. “Whether I would end up with the Eagles or somebody else, everybody I got a chance to interview with and sit down with, I wanted to pick their brain to grow as a player and make the transition to the National Football League a little bit easier.”
Kelly has had an eye on Agholor for a few years. As a freshman, he had a six-catch, 162-yard performance against Oregon.
“That was the biggest test I faced, and I just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity,” Agholor said. “I think they did a great job schematically to cover the other two guys, and opportunity showed where I needed to make plays.”
In that game, a 62-51 Oregon win, he also took note of what was happening when the Ducks’ offense was on the field.
Kenjon Barner ran 38 times for 321 yards and five touchdowns. Josh Huff had six catches for 125 yards and a pair of scores.
“Coach [Kelly] just did a great job of getting guys the ball in space,” Agholor said. “…They made the plays needed for them to make because coach put them in good positions.”
As for the transition to the NFL, Agholor feels more prepared because he played under Steve Sarkisian last year.
“As you guys probably know, most teams in the Pac-12 try their best to emulate what Coach [Kelly] does,” Agholor said. “So at USC we did a similar deal where we try to get the guys the ball in space, perimeter screens in terms of the run game. Also made it comfortable for players just to run routes off of coverage, and I think Coach [Kelly] does a great job of that. I think what I did in my last year, which is also a blessing to have Coach Sarkisian there because before we were very traditional pro style, and when Coach Sarkisian came, he made things easier for me to transition.”
With Jordan Matthews, Huff and Riley Cooper in the mix, there should be a healthy competition for playing time this summer. Matthews and Huff have already reached out to Agholor and welcomed him to Philadelphia.
“Those guys are truly special people just like players,” he said. “For them to think enough of me to reach out to me, very genuine of them. Both made it clear – Josh and Matthews – they made it very clear that they want me to come in and work with them and just get after it. I think I’m in a blessed position to have those two guys with that type of mindset. Now you know you’re in a comfortable position because this is the type of person you are. And you’re dealing with people with similar wants.”
As for scheme, Agholor has already shown on film that he can win in the slot or on the outside.
“All these guys try to find a way to have an advantage,” Agholor said. “In terms of coverage, you may put a guy that’s normally outside inside. Antonio Brown plays inside. Larry Fitzgerald plays inside. A lot of those guys do that. And Coach [Kelly] does a great job of that because he understands defenses and rotation. So as a player, why not be in a situation where your coach is gonna give you a competitive advantage?”