A.J. Brown couldn't hold back his smile.
The fifth-year receiver has accomplished quite a bit on the field. Just last season, he broke a 38-year-old franchise record with 1,496 yards in his debut campaign with the team. But before he takes his first snap on Sunday in New England, Brown has already earned something that goes beyond catches and yards and touchdowns.
Brown is a team captain for the first time in his career, dating back to his days with the Tennessee Titans.
"It meant everything to me just to get the respect from your peers, your teammates, to know that you're being watched and they value what you say and how you go about your day," Brown said. "For them to pick me as a captain tells me that they trust me. That means a lot to me."
Brown isn't the only first-time captain in the wide receivers room. DeVonta Smith was selected as well. Brown and Smith (1,196 yards) formed the first wide receiver duo in Eagles history to surpass 1,000 yards in the same season in 2022.
"DeVonta is the guy who don't really talk as much, but leads by example by how he works and I think those leaders are just as important," Brown said. "He doesn't have to say nothing. He just lines up and goes to work. Those are really important leaders as well."
Here is the complete list of veterans who will serve as captains for the 2023 Philadelphia Eagles:
• A.J. Brown (1st season as a captain)
• Fletcher Cox (6th season)
• Jake Elliott (2nd season)
• Brandon Graham (5th season)
• Jalen Hurts (3rd season)
• Lane Johnson (2nd season)
• Jason Kelce (6th season)
• DeVonta Smith (1st season)
• Darius Slay (2nd season)
"We have a good group of core guys who hold the best players to the highest accountability," Brown said, highlighting one of Head Coach Nick Sirianni's core principles. "When you hold your best players accountable, then everybody else has to get in line, too. I think the core guys instilled that in this whole locker room."
It's not something that the players, no matter how many times they're selected, take for granted.
"It means a lot to me. I take it seriously," Graham said. "When the guys vote for you, hell yeah it means a lot to me. It's something that I've cherished since it started for me, being a captain. I try to lead by example and by just having the right attitude every day, keeping the guys up, always having a smile on my face. We have a lot of great energy with this team and I'm just trying to lead that way. Being a captain, yeah, it's a big deal to me and I'm grateful for it."
Brown didn't initially think he was named a captain. When Sirianni announced the results of the vote to the team on Thursday, Brown's name wasn't on the initial PowerPoint slide and he thought to himself, "maybe next year." Nope, "next year" is now and the new season starts Sunday on the road against the Patriots.
"Anytime you can give guys good news of guys that are not only tremendous players, but tremendous leaders and tremendous people on your team, that's obviously something that you really enjoy and remember as a coach," Sirianni said at his Tuesday press conference.
"Really happy for all of the guys voted captain. It just says so much about them and what their teammates think about them. Obviously, get really excited for the guys who are going to wear the C on their chest for the first time. It didn't surprise me at all because A.J. and DeVonta have special leadership qualities and play tremendous football and they lead in their own way. I'm really happy for them."
The success that Brown and the Eagles had in 2022 is in the rear-view mirror. Training Camp and the preseason forged the initial bond that the Eagles will look to carry them through the peaks and valleys of the year.
"You need trials and tribulations every year. You want to see your team come together, connect, and have each other's back," Brown said. "We're just connected. We're a family. We always look out for each other."
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