How can you not love a guy like Derek Landri? Twice it didn't work out in his NFL career, in Jacksonville and in Carolina and wouldn't you know it? Third time is a charm.
The Eagles signed Landri to one of those who-is-he contracts prior to the 2011 season and, well, here we are. Landri led the Eagles in tackles for loss last season and now he's a starter at defensive tackle and easily the least-talked-about player on the defense.
Moreover, Landri brings some grit and nastiness to the defense. He plays with what he calls "controlled aggression" but admits "that I don't try to control it that much."
Gosh, I love this guy ...
"All I ever wanted was a chance, so I got one here and I go out there every day proving myself," said Landri. "This game is what I love to do. There is nothing else you can do where you can hit people, be physical, and compete and do it all in a legal way. I love it out there, and I'm going to do what it takes to do my job.
"Am I going to poke somebody's eye out or pull someone's arm out of his socket? When I have that thing going inside of me, when it's time to play, I'm doing whatever I can to make the play as long as I do it the right way, within the rules."
So he isn't the most cultured guy. Isn't that part of the charm of Landri, who has a career with a whole lotta Rodney Dangerfield mixed in. I can't get no respect.
Landri was a fifth-round draft pick by Jacksonville out of Notre Dame, and he played with the Jaguars for three seasons before joining Carolina in 2010. With the Panthers, Landri started 16 games and recorded three sacks and then was a casualty of the work stoppage in 2011.
Last year was a strange one for Landri. He signed with the Eagles in the preseason and then had a terrific month with the team, but when the Eagles cut the roster to 53 players, Landri was let go.
He stayed on the streets for four weeks and then re-joined the Eagles in Week 5 after Antonio Dixon was injured. Had Dixon not been injured, we may never have heard from Landri again.
Funny how things work out ...
In 12 games last year, Landri led the Eagles with eight tackles for loss and added a pair of quarterback sacks. He constantly played in the offense's backfield working in the Eagles' defensive tackle rotation. At the very least, Landri's play opened eyes around the league, to the point where he would get some love in free agency.
It didn't. Landri wasn't exactly an Ugly Duckling in free agency, but he didn't get much attention. In the end, the best option was to return to the Eagles and make the best of the situation.
Landri has done that, and more. He's a starter coming off a dominating three preseason games and Cleveland and the regular season and another chance to prove himself is ahead.
"That's really what it's all about for me and for this team," he says. "We have a chance to go out and show how good we can play, to show what kind of team we are. Each week you get that chance in the NFL. I love that. To have that competition is what really drives me."
To say that Landri is mad at the world when it comes to football is an understatement. Why didn't teams make a push for a player who was so productive last year? Isn't the 6-feet-2, 290-pound Landri pretty enough to help any team in the league?
That isn't the focus now, of course. The Browns are a physical team with a young offense out to prove itself on Sunday. Landri's job is to be disruptive, to play with energy and to unleash the football craziness within his body.
"They're a good offense and they went out and got a new quarterback and a player in (Trent) Richardson that they think was the best player in the draft. They're going to be tough," said Landri. "We have to play great football on Sunday. I think we're going to be up to the challenge."
With a defense looking for a personality, an identity, a "face," why can't it be Landri who represents what Juan Castillo wants? Landri has earned everything he's gotten in this game. He plays with an enormous chip on his shoulder. He's the kind of guy you want on your side in a fight because he's going to have your back and he's going to give you everything he has.
His favorite part of football? "The brutality of it," he says in his media guide bio. "How many other arenas in life can you kick the crap out of somebody and not get arrested for it?"
Perfect. Call central casting. The Eagles have found the heart and soul of their defense in the form of a player nobody wanted, but one the Eagles think is about as important as anyone on the field.
How can you not love this guy?