Wide receiver Jason Avant survived the gang-riddled streets of Chicago to become an integral component to the success of the Philadelphia Eagles. To this day, Avant works with at-risk youth to show them that there is a positive world beyond the crime and bleakness that is so prevalent. He is also a leader in the locker room with his humility, work ethic and team-first attitude.
What Avant did on the final play of Sunday's win over the Giants showcased his selflessness. As DeSean Jackson raced 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown, it was Avant who launched himself into Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie to clear the final obstacle. Avant suffered a concussion on the play, but practiced all week and did not appear on Friday's injury report.
On Friday, head coach Andy Reid announced to the players that they had voted Avant as the winner of the team's Ed Block Courage Award. Each year, the Ed Block Courage Award honors those National Football League players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. They are selected in a vote by their teammates for team effort as well as individual performance.
"I thank my teammates because they voted for the award," Avant said. "I'm happy about it, just to let people know what God has done for me and just to let kids know that it's not about what you face, it's about what you overcome. I think that everyone in our society, everyone that is alive, can have one thing in common. You go through life and you're going to have ups and downs. How you finish is the key and continuing on that path to finish and be a productive citizen in our society. I'm just thankful."
Avant was a fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2006 and as a fifth-year veteran is already one of the longest-tenured players in the locker room. A sure-handed slot receiver who relishes the art of blocking and all of the thankless aspects of the game, Avant has a career-high 48 catches for 536 yards and one touchdown this season. Avant has started in 26 career games and increased his catch total each season. This past off-season, Avant was signed to a five-year contract. To win the award the day before Christmas is not lost on Avant.
"The thing about it is, whether it's a young or old football team, I think gratefulness is the biggest thing. Whenever you're grateful, whenever you're happy about just being at work in a hard time like this in an economic crisis that we're having in our country. To be at work and to be thankful, I think that goes a long way. With our team, that's my message to them, to be grateful," Avant said.
"For me, Jesus Christ coming into the world to die for our sins, like Christmas season is about, I think that's the biggest thing for guys to be thankful about. We have that mindset, and I think that helps us with our camaraderie and helps us to be united. We have one thing in common, we realize we are not supposed to be here. We have had that mindset that going to work and playing games are easy to do, and we like being around each other because we are thankful."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 6:00 p.m., December 24