Eagles feature

Why Dean fell in love with the mental side of football at an early age

Nakobe Dean is known as a cerebral player and he's always loved that aspect of football.

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Nakobe Dean wasn’t always the biggest, strongest or fastest player on the football field.

Not much he can do about that. But he’s always found ways to overcome.

Even at a young age, Dean always looked for any advantage he could get. So it’s no surprise that he fell in love with the cerebral aspect of football.

“I love it. I love it,” Dean said on Wednesday. “Because people who don’t know much about football outside looking in, they might think it’s just about running and hitting. If you’re able to go tackle someone and you’re tough and you’re big, then you can play football. It’s not always the case. There’s a lot of thinking that goes on to it. It’s a lot of scheme stuff that goes on to it. And I feel like that’s the beauty of the game to me.”

Dean, 22, is entering his second NFL season and will have an immensely important role in the Eagles’ defense. He’s the MIKE linebacker, the guy with the green dot, charged with getting the play call from defensive coordinator Sean Desai and relaying it to his teammates.

The Eagles are putting a lot of faith in Dean this season.

One reason the Eagles never hesitated to put Dean in this position? They think he can handle it, especially the mental side of things.

The love for that aspect of football formed at a young age.

“It’s always been there,” Dean said. “Because when you was young, that’s what separated you the most, if you wasn’t always the fastest, the biggest, the strongest, which I’ve never been, ever. It’s like, being cerebral always was being smart and being able to study plays and know what’s coming. 

“At a young age, definitely high school, when they ran the same play over and over again, it helped me on the field. It’s just going to continue to help me.”

By now, you’ve probably heard about Nakobe Dean, the bookworm. He was a straight-A student in high school. And at Georgia, he was mechanical engineering major, an Honor Roll student (with a 3.55 GPA) and a recipient of the Ramsey Scholarship for Academic & Athletic Excellence.

Dean hopes to have a long NFL career but has some ideas for his post-football career too, perhaps eventually going pre-med and/or aiming to work in the field of prosthetics.

His Eagles teammates, especially the ones who went to Georgia with him, know all about Dean’s intelligence and maturity. On a recent episode of Eagles Unscripted, Jordan Davis said Dean, “sounds like an uncle.”

And when his Bulldog teammates were talking about video games, Dean told them: “I don’t know nothing about Call of Duty. I know about the viscosity of water.”

Dean also knows a thing or two about defense. He was a defensive leader for a National Championship winning Bulldogs team a couple years ago. But after playing just 34 defensive snaps as a rookie, he’s ready to step into a starting role for the Eagles in 2023.

Hearing Dean’s voice in the defensive huddle took some getting used to this summer from his teammates, especially because of Dean’s Mississippi drawl. But Dean has worked on getting his play calls out. 

And this offseason, he practiced his calls while going through conditioning work to make sure he still had the stamina and projection ability to get the calls out cleanly.

When Desai delivers the play call through Dean’s headset, he’s giving Dean more than just the call. He’s also giving him other nuggets about what he sees from the offense or other tips and techniques. Dean wants all that information.

He always wants information about football. Always has.

Always will.

“As much as I think I know about football,” Dean said, “it’s always something every year that comes up that I never heard of.”

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