Quintin Demps was caught off-guard like a lot of Eagles fans. He surely didn't envision his teammate from last season, Brian Dawkins, to be in a different uniform in 2009.
"I didn't believe it at first. I was like, 'Wow.' I just thought for sure that he would end his career as an Eagle ... I was stunned by it," Demps said from his home in San Antonio on Saturday after learning that Dawkins signed a five-year deal with Denver.
Demps was a fourth-round draft pick out of Texas-El Paso in 2008. He finished his college career with 17 interceptions which ranked second in school and conference history. As a rookie, Demps made his biggest contribution as an explosive kickoff returner averaging 25.3 yards per return. He had two returns of 60 yards-or-more including a 100-yard gain that was the longest by a rookie in franchise history. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown by any Eagle since 2001.
As the season progressed, Demps became more and more involved in the defense. By the end of the season, Demps was utilized as part of a three-safety package that helped the Eagles defend the run better. Demps' range and ability to cover allowed him to line up opposite a receiver in these sets. He had nine tackles and a sack in the regular season, but 11 tackles in the three playoff games which included a start against the Vikings.
"I just played with a chip on my shoulder," Demps said. "I feel like I should have went higher in the draft. And until I leave the league, I'm going to play with that chip on my shoulder every year. It was great. I got my feet wet. The game started to slow down for me. It was a great opportunity."
But Demps' season didn't end the way he or Eagles fans wanted it to. In the NFC Championship game loss to Arizona, Demps was responsible for covering Larry Fitzgerald on a 62-yard touchdown pass. Demps also committed a personal foul when he leveled quarterback Kurt Warner way after he threw the ball. That penalty eventually resulted in an end-of-the-half field goal.
"I was hurt. I really was hurt," Demps said. "I feel like we could have played better. I feel like I should have played better. I'm just disappointed about it."
After one season, Demps could be called upon to be a starter in 2009. Currently, Demps and Quintin Mikell are the only safeties on the Eagles roster. And if Demps is presented with the opportunity to win a starting job, he wants to make the most of it.
"We knew (Dawkins leaving) was going to happen eventually," Demps said. "I'm going to take the opportunity and run with it."
That's why Demps will return to Philadelphia later this week to begin preparing for the 2009 season. He's already started to work out. Demps wants to take everything he learned from Dawkins and put it to good use.
"I learned that you don't have to lead by rah rah. You can lead by example," Demps said. "You got to have passion to play this game, but this is a business at the same time. You have to have love for the game. I was only here for one year and I saw how much of a leader he was. It's going to be crazy."