Chip Kelly wants college graduates on his football team. That’s why six out of seven players the Eagles selected last week all earned their college degrees. He wants to build a team grounded in intelligence and maturity, because it’s proven to be successful.
Kelly stressed the importance of earning a college degree in an interview with ESPN last week.
“Number one, I think it shows you the intelligence factor, and number two, it shows that they’re committed to establishing goals and following through on their goals,” Kelly said. “You face some adversity, whether it’s in school or on the football field. You’ve got a bunch of driven guys, and that’s evidence that they are driven. It shows you what we’re looking for here, that combination of mental toughness and that high football intelligence.”
Adding to the importance of graduating, Kelly also referenced a telling statistic from a speech given by former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy when he met with Oregon’s team: From 2000-2010, the Colts and the New England Patriots led the NFL in number of college graduates.
Here’s a fun fact: those two teams combined for 4 Super Bowl victories in that 10-year span. Obviously, teams are finding success by bringing in smart and mature football players.
Looking at this year’s draft class, the Eagles plucked WR Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt in the second round, and it’s incredibly easy to see why Kelly was drawn to him. On top of graduating with a degree in Economics, Matthews is unbelievably diligent in his preparation. General manager Howie Roseman told reporters last week that Matthews asked for game tape of the cornerbacks he would face in the Senior Bowl. How’s that for dedication? In addition, Matthews also watched four Eagles games from last year prior to his official visit with the team.
“This guy, the level of determination he has, his work ethic, it’s going to rub off on everyone,” Roseman said during a press conference following the selection.
Again, the Eagles are looking for players that will build a positive atmosphere in the locker room, and Matthews will have that type of meaningful impact for the foreseeable future.
In the third round, the Eagles nabbed WR Josh Huff out of Oregon. According to Charles Davis of NFL.com, Huff is the first person in his family to earn a college degree, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.
Moving to the fourth round, the Eagles selected CB Jaylen Watkins, who was named team captain in the middle of the Florida Gators’ tumultuous 2013 season. Again, this proves that the Gator coaching staff had tremendous faith in Watkins’ leadership abilities.
Drafting intelligent and high character guys is actually nothing new for Kelly. In fact, a quick look at last year’s draft class illustrates the same trend. Current Eagle Bennie Logan wore #18 at LSU (extremely rare for a defensive tackle), which is a special jersey awarded by the coaching staff as the player who best represents what it means “to be a Tiger on and off the field”.
In a world where on-field talent is so valued, it’s refreshing to see a head coach place such a high emphasis on character. By bringing in players that fit this added dimension, it’s clear that Kelly is keeping the ultimate goal in mind: winning a Super Bowl.
College Majors of Eagles 2014 draft class:
Marcus Smith – Sports Administration
Jordan Matthews – Economics
Josh Huff – Sociology
Jaylen Watkins – Family, Youth, and Community Science
Taylor Hart – Psychology-Sociology
Ed Reynolds – Political Science
Beau Allen – Business with a focus in Management and Human Resources