Eagles great Joyner excited to hear cheers one more time


Seth Joyners nine-year-old son Tobias heard the news on TV and came rushing into the living room of their Arizona home Friday, yelling to his dad.

Dad, dad, he said. Hes playing! Michaels playing!

Tobias Joyner might be the son of one of the greatest Eagles ever, but right now, all he cares about is watching Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and all his other favorite Eagles face the Giants Sunday.

Tobias, a young Pop Warner football star in his own right, will be at the Linc Sunday for the Eagles home opener, his very first Eagles game.

Oh yeah, dad will also be at the Linc Sunday. Hell be honored by the Eagles before the game and serve as honorary captain 18 years after he last wore that old-school green No. 59 jersey.

Joyner spent 1986 through 1993 with the Eagles and is the consensus greatest linebacker in the franchises modern history. He was Sports Illustrateds 1991 Defensive Player of the Year and runner-up in APs Defensive Player of the Year balloting. He made three Pro Bowl teams as an Eagle and in 2007 was named to the franchises All-Time 75th Anniversary team.

And on Sunday, Eagles fans can cheer for Seth Joyner one more time.

Im excited and Im highly appreciative of what the Eagles are doing, but Im really excited for my son, Joyner said. Hes never been to an Eagles game, and he cant wait. Hes a huge Eagles fan, a huge Michael Vick and DeSean fan, and for him to have the opportunity to experience all of this with me, thats going to be really special.

Im a pretty even-keel guy. Once I was done playing, I learned how to keep my emotions and aggression in check. But this will mean so much more to him than to me. Hell have the opportunity to see what I meant to the city of Philadelphia and what I meant to the Philadelphia Eagles, and that means a lot to me.

Joyners story remains a remarkable one. He was drafted in the eighth round in 1986 but released before his rookie season. He returned home to Spring Valley, N.Y., and was about to return to Texas-El Paso to get his degree when Buddy Ryan called him and told him to be at practice the next morning.

Seven-and-a-half years later, he left Philly in acrimony as part of the great free agency migration that saw Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen, Keith Jackson, Keith Byars among others abandon a franchise and owner that they believed had no desire to compete for free agents or for a Super Bowl.

But in his eight seasons with the Eagles, Joyner recorded 37 sacksmost ever by an Eagles linebackerand 17 interceptions, fourth-most ever by an Eagles linebacker and only three fewer than Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik.

When he wrapped up his career in 1998 after stints with the Cards, where he again played for Ryan; the Packers, where Andy Reid was on Mike Holmgrens staff; and the Broncos, where he won a Super Bowl ring, Joyner had 52 sacks and 24 interceptions. Hes one of only five linebackers in NFL history with 20 career sacks and 20 interceptions and the only player in NFL history with 20 or more INTs and 50 or more sacks.

The Ryan Eagles didnt win a single playoff game, but they put the Eagles back in the public consciousness in Philadelphia after six straight losing seasons. With personalities like Jerome Brown, White, Jackson, Waters and Joyner, the Eagles became folk heroes, even if they never became a great football team.

We exemplified what Philadelphia was all about, Joyner said. We were a hard-nosed, hard-working bunch of guys. We embodied everything about Philadelphiatough, blue-collar, hard working. Wed knock you down, then pick you up, then knock you down again.

The Eagles had some pretty good defensive teams under Jim Johnson, but I think what we did was quite a bit different. We played dominant football. We had Hall of Famers on the defensive line, great linebackers, safeties whod knock you out and cornerbacks who could cover anybody in the league.

We were a complete defense, and Buddys attitude and the way we played, there was a tremendous connection between us and the city and the fans. Thats something that I think has never gone away. I think that connection will always be there.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

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