There is never truly a bye week in Philadelphia. Even when the Eagles don't have a game, there is still football in this city. The fans crave it. They demand it.
Tuesday night's Otho Davis Scholarship Foundation's awards dinner at the Marriott in Old City was the perfect event at the perfect time. The banquet room was full, the guest list was stellar, and the memories were priceless. It was a night that would have greatly pleased Davis, who was the Eagles' beloved trainer for three decades.
This year, the dinner was a tribute to the Eagles Hall of Fame, of which the late trainer is a member. Ten Hall of Famers were there for the event: Eric Allen, Bill Bergey, Bill Bradley, Harold Carmichael, Ron Jaworski, Seth Joyner, Mike Quick, Clyde Simmons, Jeremiah Trotter, and Brian Westbrook. It was an evening full of emotion, laughs, and, of course, loathing for the Dallas Cowboys.
David Montgomery, the late Phillies president, was honored with the Dick Vermeil Award. His wife Lynn and Phillies chairman emeritus Bill Giles accepted on his behalf.
Lauren Gough and Anthony Lombardo, both of Jefferson University, each received a $20,000 scholarship to continue their studies in sports medicine. Program chairman Jim Solano felt the best way to honor the memory of Davis was to provide support for the next generation of athletic trainers. The first dinner was held in 1999 and Solano has kept it going and growing every year.
Tuesday night's dinner concluded with a video tribute to the 10 Eagles Hall of Famers in attendance, followed by a lively discussion with the former players answering questions submitted by the audience.
The video highlights spanned almost half a century of Eagles football and they brought back some great memories: Eric Allen's spectacular 94-yard interception return against the Jets in 1993, Ron Jaworski's 99-yard touchdown pass to Mike Quick against the Falcons in 1985, Clyde Simmons' recovery of a blocked field goal for a touchdown against the Giants in 1989, Seth Joyner's signature performance in the House of Pain game (Houston) in 1991, and Brian Westbrook's game winning punt return at the Meadowlands in 2003 among many others.
The crowd in the banquet room cheered each play as if they were seeing it for the first time. The biggest cheers though came for the highlights from the Dallas games over the years: Bill Bergey body-slamming Robert Newhouse to the rock-hard turf at Veterans Stadium, Simmons recording one of his four sacks of Troy Aikman at Texas Stadium in 1991, Harold Carmichael reaching over safety Cliff Harris to reel in a touchdown pass on Monday Night Football in 1978, Jeremiah Trotter picking off Aikman and returning it for a score in the 2000 opener.
Perhaps the biggest cheer came on a film clip from the mid-70s. It was an Eagles-Cowboys game at the Vet. Drew Pearson caught a pass over the middle. He was immediately crushed by Bergey who not only wrestled the Dallas receiver to the turf, but literally ripped off his helmet and threw it away.
Pearson got up, his Afro bristling (this was the '70s, remember) and looked around for a penalty flag. There was none. For good measure, Bradley, the Eagles All-Pro safety, came in and shoved Pearson as if to say, "You're in Philly, whaddya expect?"
Bradley watched the video with a huge smile on his face. He is 72 now, gray-haired but still wearing his cowboy boots and blue jeans to complement his Eagles Hall of Fame blazer. He was born in Texas and won the state championship in high school, starred at the University of Texas, and remains a legend there, but that counts for nothing when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys.
"It was true when I played and it's true today," Bradley said. "Dallas sucks."
The audience roared.
Carmichael talked about his discomfort when he was released by the Eagles in 1983 and claimed by the Cowboys. He talked about putting on the silver and blue uniform for the first time, looking at himself in the mirror and thinking how wrong it looked. He only played two games for the Cowboys and admitted his heart just wasn't in it.
Joyner told a story about being a free agent and getting a phone call while he was on the golf course. It was Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' owner and general manager.
"He said, 'Seth, this is Jerry Jones,'" Joyner said in a Texas drawl. "We'd like you to come down here and play for the Cowboys.' I told him, 'Jerry, there ain't no way in hell I'm putting my head between those two stars.'" He was referring, of course, to the stars on the Cowboys helmet.
Joyner played for three other teams after he left the Eagles. He joined Buddy Ryan in Arizona then played in Super Bowls with Green Bay and Denver. But he said he could never play for Dallas. The audience Tuesday night was with him all the way.
Jaworski made a good point at the end of the video. He said, "Every one of those hits you just saw would be a penalty today. It's a different game now."
He is right about that. There was a film clip of Trotter peeling back to throw a block on an interception return against the Giants. He levels Dave Brown with a shot that leaves the Giants quarterback face down and motionless on the turf. It wouldn't just draw a penalty today; it might well get a player ejected and fined.
At the end of the program, the former players took turns paying tribute to Otho Davis, the trainer who cared for them during their careers in Philadelphia. They loved him then and they love him today.
Joyner said: "Otho treated every player like he was his son. He cared about each and every one of us. He was a special person."
An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for PhiladelphiaEagles.com. You can read all of hisEagles History columns here.He is also the author ofThe Eagles Encyclopedia: Champions Edition which is in bookstores now.