There’s no guidebook on how to be an NFL player. There’s no instructional video on how to have a long productive career. There’s no website that spells out how to take care of yourself, what to eat and how to study.
For all the young guys on the Eagles’ roster, there’s something even better.
Watching living legends in action.
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Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce are not only legends on the field, they’re remarkable examples to all the young players who share a locker room with them.
Cox and Johnson are 32, Graham and Kelce are 34, and among them they’ve started 664 games, made 16 Pro Bowls and helped the Eagles win their only Super Bowl five years ago.
There are only 25 active NFL players who’ve started 100 games and spent their entire career with one team. Four of them are Eagles, and the impact they’ve made – and continue to make – on this organization simply cannot be measured.
“Those guys give me hope that if I stay the path and have a routine and do the right thing that I can be a legend like them,” Jordan Mailata said. “Being around them, seeing the emotion that they put into the game and what they get out of it, that’s what I strive for.
“They’ve created a resume for the rest of the world to see and hopefully Hall of Famers and great players and definitely great people. You learn something every day just by watching them.”
Graham, Kelce and Cox have been here since the Andy Reid Era, Johnson since Chip Kelly’s first season. They are the only Eagles who pre-date the 2016 season.
They were key figures on one Super Bowl championship and are key figures on another team trying to make a similar run.
“Those guys are all-time Eagle greats and they carry themselves the right way," Marcus Epps said.
"They’re great leaders and great players, they come to work every day, they do all the right things, they work hard and they’re a great example for young players on, hey, if you want your career to go a certain way, they will show you the steps you have to take day in and day out to get there.
“It’s definitely inspiring. Any time you’re in the presence of guys like that it’s inspiring to see what they’re doing and how you can kind of mimic that.”
The most remarkable thing about this quartet of all-time Eagles is that they’re all playing at an extremely high level.
Cox ranks seventh among all defensive tackles with 6.0 sacks, Graham is sixth among edge rushers with 8 ½ sacks, Kelce is the top-ranked center in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus and Johnson is the No. 2-ranked right tackle.
They’re doing something right. Heck, seems like they’re doing everything right.
“I’m a big guy on seeing action and not just what you say, and seeing stuff like that gives me a clear idea of how to be a pro,” 25-year-old Miles Sanders said. “Just watch them and follow their steps. It’s easy.
“They’ve been doing it the right way, they’ve been doing it for a long time, so you pay attention to everything they do. Got some real legends here, future Hall of Famers here. Hopefully, all the young guys are paying attention.”
This is Graham’s 13th year with the Eagles, Kelce’s 12th year, Cox’s 11th year and Johnson’s 10th. Along with Jerry Sisemore, Brent Celek, John Bunting and Randy Logan, they’re among only eight players who’ve played at least 10 seasons here and never played for another team.
They’re all Eagles Hall of Fame no-brainers, and Kelce and perhaps Cox is a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.
They’re living legends and they’re more than willing to mentor and counsel any young player who asks.
“That’s a luxury a lot of NFL teams don’t have,” Jack Stoll said. “They don’t have guys like that walking around their building willing to share their knowledge with everybody. We’re unbelievably lucky to have guys like that.
“They teach you how to do it the right way, and they’ve been unbelievable helping us out. From the stories I’ve heard, some people, they get to that level and they don’t really try to help anyone out, so the fact that they’re willing to go out of their way and help everyone is something I don’t think any of us take for granted. We’re extremely lucky to have them.
“You can learn so much, even just by watching them. Just seeing how they take care of their body, getting a little more work in, recovery, how they prepare for stuff, film – it’s unbelievable to watch and just being a young guy you look at that and you realize, ‘That’s how you do it.’ That’s so valuable.”
Mailata arrived here in 2018 with literally zero football experience, so having Pro Bowl-caliber veterans all over the locker room meant the world to him.
“You ought to see the amount of time Lane puts into his body to make sure he’s fresh,” he said. “Even in meetings, he’s constantly doing something to take care of himself – stretching his toes or rolling something out. I guess that comes with age and playing that long in the league and he’s always preaching taking care of your body. I see it with Fletch, he never takes a day off, he’s doing cardio, he’s got his own routine. B.G.’s almost always the first one in the building doing his routine. Kelce does his routine after practice.
“Seeing the success they’ve had on the field for so long, you ask yourself, ‘How did they get there? How are they having this kind of success?’ And you see the routines they have and it’s something you know you have to have if you want to get to that point.”
It didn’t take rookie Britain Covey very long after joining the Eagles in April to realize how valuable the resources were in the Eagles’ locker room.
“The way I see it is in any other profession, you will do whatever you can – whether that’s travel or go to seminars, read books, whatever you can do – to learn from the best people in that profession,” Covey said.
“Think about the lengths some people will go to to find the best people in their profession to learn something from. And just the fact that in my profession I get to be around them constantly. That’s special and when you look at it from that mindset you realize how unique of an opportunity it is.
“There’s so many things you can get frustrated with in football. But then I take a step back and I just think, ‘Wow, people would kill to just be around someone like that and watch them work.’ That’s what I love about it. You can learn so much just being around those guys.”
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