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New Chapter In McLeod's Underdog Story

Posted Mar 10, 2016

Philadelphia loves an underdog.

That David vs. Goliath mentality runs in Philadelphia’s blood, and one of the newest members of the Eagles’ secondary has an underdog story Rocky Balboa would be proud of.

The first big surprise of Rodney McLeod’s NFL career came during the 2012 NFL Draft, when no team called his name. He signed with St. Louis and worked his way from undrafted rookie to full-time starter by the time the 2013 season began. Since then he started every game.

Now, four years after every team passed on him, the Eagles have signed him to a five-year contract in hopes that he can be an integral part of the defense for years to come, and it’s all because he kept his head down and worked as hard as he could.

“I expected to be drafted,” McLeod said on Thursday. “You know how it goes in this league. There are projections and it’s unfortunate, but obviously God has a plan for you, and my plan was to be undrafted. St. Louis gave me the opportunity and I don’t know why some teams didn’t take that chance, but I’m here today a better man than I was four years ago. I’ve gotten better as a player, and that’s all I can ask for.

“Hard work, great coaching, taking coaching every single day and just applying it to the field each and every year and snap (is why I’ve been able to have success). I feel like I’ve kind of been doing it since high school in terms of just being a hardworking guy and taking coaching well and just applying it to my game any way that I can. I have to give credit to a lot of coaches that have gotten me to where I am today.”

In St. Louis, McLeod was the most talented safety on the roster and was often tasked with carrying the load on the back end. With the Eagles, he teams up with a Pro Bowl safety in Malcolm Jenkins, a leader whom he believes will help bring out the best in his game and vice versa.

“I know I’m going to be playing with Malcolm Jenkins, who is a great safety in this league, a Pro Bowler, which is one of the reasons why I chose here, to play besides a guy of that caliber who has proven himself and someone that I can learn from,” McLeod said. “We’re kind of interchangeable, so however (defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz wants to use us, I’m open for it. I don’t know if I’ll be playing down or middle of the field more. We’ll just have to wait until we get out onto the field and see.

When McLeod and Jenkins do get a chance to take the field together, the University of Virginia product is very confident that they can be among the top safety tandems in the NFL.

“I think we can be the best in league, honestly,” said McLeod. “The ability that he has and with my range and things like that and the ability to just make plays, I think that’s our strong suit. We’re both former corners, so I think we’re going to help each other out a lot. I’m going to learn a lot from him just from him being a veteran in this game. I think we have a chance to be one of the best (duos) in the league.”

McLeod also mentioned the great legacy that the Eagles have at the safety position, citing names like Brian Dawkins. The 25-year-old also has playing experience with another Eagles Pro Bowl safety, current Eagles director of player development Quintin Mikell, who was happy to give McLeod some tips about Eagles fans when he walked into the NovaCare Complex.

“I played with him my rookie year in St. Louis. He’s a great guy who played eight years here,” McLeod said. “He just said you’re going to love it here. They’re going to love me and the fans are loyal here and they come out each and every Sunday and root for their team. That’s all you can ask for. Us players, we feed off that, so just knowing the whole city is behind you each and every Sunday is great as a player and I can’t wait.

“I played here a couple of years back and noticed the fans and I’ve seen the legacy that guys have left here, and it’s truly a blessing to be a part of this now and get things going in a few weeks. I’m just looking forward to this opportunity.”

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