With the 150th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected running back Kenneth Gainwell out of Memphis.
The Eagles' fifth-round pick hails from the same city as his cousin, All-Decade defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. Gainwell was a quarterback at Yazoo City High School and guided the Indians to a 14-1 record and an appearance in the state title game as a senior. Gainwell was also an outstanding track athlete who competed in the 100-meter dash, long jump, and triple jump events.
"Growing up, I used to love Darren Sproles. My favorite, favorite running back," Gainwell said during a virtual conference call. "He kind of put the inspiration on me. Short guys, fast guys, that's what they use. So, I mean, that kind of motivated me."
The 5-8, 201-pound Gainwell took his talents to Memphis where he ignited the Tigers' offense in 2019 after a redshirt freshman year. Gainwell was the only player in all of the FBS to gain at least 1,000 yards rushing (1,459) and 500 yards receiving (610). Gainwell averaged 6.3 yards per rush and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground. He added 51 receptions and another three scores in the air. Against Tulane, Gainwell posted the first 200-yard receiving/100-yard rushing performance since 1997. He was rewarded with first-team All-AAC honors and was named the AAC Rookie of the Year. In 18 career games (14 starts) including four games from his redshirt freshman year, Gainwell finished with 2,212 all-purpose yards.
"I'm happy y'all got me. I'm happy I'm with the Eagles. That (being a late-round pick) really don't matter. It's time to work. It's time to put in the work. Getting drafted first, getting drafted at the fifth, it don't really matter about all that. I am ready to ball for the Eagles," he added.
Gainwell opted out of the 2020 season after three members of his family passed away due to COVID-related issues. Gainwell was named to several big-time award watch lists and preseason All-American teams before his decision. The 22-year-old still had two years of eligibility remaining in school. At his Pro Day, Gainwell ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash and leaped 10-1 in the broad jump.
"Explosive. He was an opt-out guy this year, but in 2019 he rushed for over 1,400 yards, over 600 yards receiving. Contact balance, his hands, he's a guy we really liked," said Andy Weidl.