Eagles Wake-Up Call: Jeremiah Trotter Hall Of Fame Q&A
The Eagles will induct linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and play-by-play announcer Merrill Reese into the team’s Hall of Fame on Monday Night Football during halftime against the Packers, so we caught up with Trotter to discuss his life and career.
We talked to the Texarkana, Texas native about his 11-year NFL career (including eight seasons with the Eagles), his journey to the league, whether former teammate Terrell Owens should make the Pro Football Hall of Fame and what it was like playing for Jim Johnson, among several other topics. To view our extended Q&A with Reese about his childhood in show business, life as an Eagles broadcaster and more, click here.
What was your introduction to football?
I loved watching football when I was little. I would always go into my Mom’s room and watch the little black-and-white TV that was like 12 inches. I just loved watching the games. Obviously, growing up in Texas, I grew up a Dallas fan. I was a big Ken Norton fan because he played middle linebacker. I liked [Houston native] Mike Singletary; I was a big fan of his. Growing up in Texas, we had three channels so I could only watch the Cowboys. I watched Ken Norton and so I always knew I wanted to play middle linebacker.
What about playing middle linebacker did you enjoy the most?
I just liked how you’re the quarterback on defense. You have to be a playmaker. When you look at most quarterbacks, for example, they’re a leader, and so I was a leader at my position. At middle linebacker, you’re the signal caller, the communicator and I always liked standing in front of the huddle calling out the plays, looking into my guys’ eyes and being the leader. So not only making plays, but being the leader of men.
Did football come easy to you at a young age?
The working out and lifting weights were easy for me because I grew up chopping firewood. Running sprints, lifting weights and getting in shape was nothing for me. I grew up working hard and football came easy to me, too, because I was one of the bigger, faster people. When I first started playing, I didn’t know as much as everyone else because I didn’t start playing until my freshman year of high school. But I was physically bigger and stronger than people, so that made up for it until I learned more about the game.
How did you end up at Stephen F. Austin?
I really liked the coach that recruited me, my Mom really liked him and they were close to home. I just wanted to go to a school I was most comfortable with and that was that school. It was a great college town; Stephen F. Austin is an outstanding school. I would recommend it to anyone. There’s great football history there, and we had a really good football team when I was a freshman. We were always ranked in the top-5 [in Division I-AA].
Why did you declare for the draft early after three seasons?
I wanted to take care of my family. My Dad was old and he could no longer work, so I wanted to take care of him and my Mom. I also didn’t have anything to prove at the I-AA level.
When you declared, was that one question you had to answer: How would you transition from Division I-AA to the NFL?
I don’t think so because when I came along, there were already a lot of guys that went from I-AA and had success. When I came in my rookie year, Hugh Douglas was on the team and he was drafted from an NAIA school (Central State University in Ohio) in the first round. There were a couple of teams really interested in me, but my agent told me I could go anywhere from Round 1 to Round 3. He told me everybody had me as a first-rounder, but when they saw my left knee they dropped me down. I tore my ACL my sophomore year of college. I rehabbed and came back my junior year of college, but some doctors told me my knee was loose and whoever fixed it didn’t fix it right and I’d probably have to have surgery again. Some teams took me completely off their board, but the Eagles took a chance on me in the third round, and I’m glad they did. I had a scope one time on that knee, but I never had to get surgery.
How did your father’s passing right before your rookie season impact you?
That was tough, man. It was the toughest thing I ever had to deal with. It happened three days before minicamp and Ray Rhodes told me to stay home, but I knew I couldn’t make the team being at home. I knew I had to go off and suck it up. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
What was it like playing for Jim Johnson?
Man, he was a huge reason for my success in my career. I can’t say enough about him. He’s an Eagles legend, and he’s one of the best defensive coordinators ever in the NFL. He was a great innovator, and a lot of his blitzes are still being imitated in the league. He allowed me to be me and let me play downhill and attack the line of scrimmage. I liked running the MIKE blitz. It was a one-man blitz and I would just blow up the ‘A’ gap and wreak havoc.
What’s the origin of the Axe Man?
I grew up chopping wood, so that’s where I got it from. I would do it after big plays — sacks, interceptions or tackles-for-loss. You can’t do that after an 8-yard gain. The first time I did that was in the NFL; I don’t remember when, though.
What was it like leaving, going to Washington and then coming back?
It was tough because I wanted to be in Philly and my heart was here. Negotiations fell through and I had to make a decision for my family. For me, the toughest thing was leaving the city where I made my name. I really was one of those guys who bled green. I wore my heart on my sleeves and felt like I was as much a part of the city as the fans. I think it hurt me most that I just wasn’t wearing the Philadelphia Eagles green and playing in front of the Philadelphia Eagles fans. It was great to come back; I felt like I was coming home. I remember I used to go home from Stephen F. Austin and visit my parents. I knew how my parents felt because that’s how I felt coming back.
One debate during last offseason was about the Pro Football Hall of Fame candidacy of one of your former teammates, Terrell Owens. Do you think he should make it? Should off-the-field things be taken into consideration?
He definitely should get in. He’s one of the best players I ever played with. His numbers speak for themself. He’ll eventually get in. I don’t know when, but he’ll get in. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame shouldn’t have anything to do with off-the-field stuff. It should be based on your productivity on the football field. I think that’s what the Hall of Fame is about — playing at a high level over an extended period of time.
What’s your favorite memory as an Eagle?
Honestly, just running out of that tunnel week in and week out. Wearing that uniform, donning those Eagles wings and wearing that [jersey number] 54 for my teammates. Just all the love I got from fans coming out of the tunnel, and in the city, too. One of my favorite moments with the fans was when we won the NFC Championship in 2004 to go to the Super Bowl. Seeing the excitement and feeling the energy and how happy people were — you could drive down Broad Street and see people running out of their homes and celebrating in the street. That’s a memory I’ll never forget.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Everything you need to know for tonight’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
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Ryan Mathews and Halapoulivaati Vaitai have been ruled out for tonight’s game with MCL sprains.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
With Ryan Mathews out tonight, does that mean Nelson Agholor is in? Les Bowen of the Daily News explores that question.
Pressed on what he needed to see from Agholor in Saturday’s final real practice of the week, [Doug] Pederson said: “It’s probably not so much – I think I’m convinced on what he’s done this week. I kind of know where he’s at, in the conversations we’ve had. I think it’s more or less that I want to get through these next couple of days of practice, because there’s always things that come up. We’ve had (tight end) Trey Burton (suffer an injury) in the past on (the week’s final real practice). “Anything is possible. So I just want to make sure that we’re 100 percent healthy going into this game.”
That seemed to indicate five wideouts, including Agholor, unless an injury at another position changes the equation before kickoff.
Why not just forget Agholor and go full speed ahead with practice squad call-up Paul Turner? Because Agholor is their first-round pick, and the Eagles have to turn over every rock in trying to get him straightened out.
As frustrating a player as Josh Huff was, the Eagles didn’t get better when they let him go, and they won’t be more talented without Agholor.
Mike Quick thinks Nelson Agholor can be “a very good receiver,” Paul Domowitch of the Daily News reports.
“When I watch Nelson Agholor, I see a lot of skills that he just has not been able to realize at this level,” said Quick, who has been the Eagles’ radio analyst for the last 18 years.
“To me, I will echo what he said after the game last week. That it’s starting to be a mental thing with him. Because the speed, the hands in practice, the explosion, he has all of that. He has all of the tools physically to be a very good receiver in this league.”
Quick thought Lewis, a self-made player who spent eight years in the NFL, including six with the Eagles, would be able to maximize Agholor’s talents. But that hasn’t happened. At least not yet. And the clock is ticking.
The more Agholor has struggled, the more he has pressed. Fear of failure has become a more difficult enemy to beat than any cornerback who has lined up in front of him this season.
The Eagles host the Green Bay Packers at 8:30 p.m.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.