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Barwin: LB Braman Ready To Shine

When the Eagles made the announcement that they had agreed to terms with linebacker/special teams standout Bryan Braman on a contract just two days into free agency, many out there said something to the effect of, "Who?"

Not Connor Barwin.

Barwin and Braman were teammates in Houston for two seasons before Barwin signed with the Eagles early in the 2013 free agency period. They were linebackers who spent an incalculable number of hours in meetings together, in the weight room side by side, looking at the playbook and, of course, on the practice field working drills. Barwin saw a young, aggressive and promising young player who would fit in with the Eagles in every way.

"I'm fired up about him being here," said Barwin. "He's big and he is fast. He is one of the fastest outside linebackers I've been around. He's got a big, huge frame. He likes playing football and he works hard and he's going to fit into this locker room.

"He's a lot of fun to watch on special teams. He's been a terror on special teams, a dominating guy. I think he's good enough to play in the defense once he gets the mental part down and lets his natural skills take over. That's going to be huge for Bryan. He's going to have to get in the playbook and learn the defense, which is quite a bit different than it was in Houston."

Braman is here to be a standout on special teams after playing very well with the Texans for three seasons. In 2012, he was named a Pro Bowl alternate and was picked for USA Today's All-Joe Team. Those who played with him loved Braman. Eagles punter Donnie Jones, one of seven former Texans on the current Eagles roster, says of Braman, "He's a war-daddy, man. When I think of special teams, I think of Bryan Braman. He's all out on every play."

The story of Braman is one that is going to be told many times, and it will resonate more profoundly when he's in uniform and the fans see how hard he plays and how much the game means to him. It took a while for the light to go off for Braman, who bounced around in college before finding himself at West Texas A&M and becoming serious about making football his profession.

Not drafted, Braman has made his way to Philadelphia the hard way. Braman has 31 career tackles on special teams in only 46 games, with 7 tackles and a half-sack in very limited action at the line of scrimmage.

His way has been to earn his wings in this league without having been handed a job, something Barwin admires.

"I think any time a free agent makes a team, you have to have some respect for him right away," said Barwin. "He was a young guy in Houston and we were in the same (linebackers) room and I saw how hard he worked and I saw his potential. I think he's going to come in here and help this football team.

"He comes from a tough background and obviously we all make mistakes and he's paid for his already. He's been good since he's been in the league and he's grown up and become a responsible man."

There are going to be plenty of differences for Braman, as there are for all new players here. The city is different, the fans are different and the media is huge and aggressive. Chip Kelly's method of working his players on a daily basis is unique. The playbook is more challenging.

Barwin won't ask Braman to room with him for the entire season, but he's open to the idea of letting him bunk long enough to find some firm footing.

"I've already been in touch with Bryan, trying to get him up here pretty soon to get working out with a big group of guys who are in Philadelphia working out all year. It's important to get him acclimated to the way we do things, to the City and then when it's time, to the coaches and the players and the support staff here," said Barwin.  "Once everybody shows up for the start of our official workouts in April, then we'll really get things going. It won't be a whirlwind for him. He'll have his feet on the ground and just have a chance to focus on how to play his best football."

Barwin is doing what leaders do, and he's doing what friends do. Braman is here because the Eagles think he's got a chance to help this football team in a variety of ways, and Barwin will do all he can to set Braman up for success.

"That guy is a workhorse," said Braman of Barwin the day Braman signed his deal with the Eagles. "If there's anything that I picked up when I was in Houston with him, it's that he likes to win. He's going to go out there and work harder than anybody. He'll get out there and drive me into the ground."

That's what makes a good player great and a great player special. Barwin wants to see it all from Braman, and Braman welcomes the challenge.

"I can't wait to get it started," said Braman. "I'm glad to be here, glad for this opportunity to show what I can do."

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