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Eagles Recall Fond Thanksgiving Memories

When President George Washington declared Thanksgiving a holiday in 1789, there was no such thing as American football. But over the last 100 years, the sport has become as synonymous with the holiday as turkey and stuffing.

And it's not just in the professional ranks, as the Eagles are 6-1 on Thanksgiving. The tradition permeates throughout all levels of football – from pee wee all the way through college. Even pickup games with family and friends in the backyard can be memorable – and sometimes intense.

Look no further than cornerback Rasul Douglas as an example of this.

Life wasn't always easy growing up in the projects in East Orange, N.J., but for Douglas and his friends, Thanksgiving Day served as a respite of sorts from a sometimes-rough upbringing.

Across the street from the projects Douglas grew up in was a church that featured a field that sat on a hill. The kids in the neighborhood aptly dubbed it "Church Hill."

Although the neighborhood kids used the field as an escape, it still served as a reminder of the harsh realities that surrounded them, as it was covered in glass.

Despite that, Douglas recalled he and his friends being out on that field as early as noon and playing as many as a dozen games in a given day.

After spending the day living out their football dreams on a glass-covered gridiron, the children would go back to their homes to feast on each other's food.

"We would all go over each other's houses and eat," Douglas said.

They even developed a system for their Thanksgiving consumption. Whoever made the best dish, the children would stop by to taste it. If someone's mom made great macaroni and cheese, that would be the macaroni and cheese stop.

If someone's mom made delicious cakes, that would serve as the spot to get dessert.

"I lived in the projects. Everybody from the projects was like family," Douglas said.

For Douglas, these were some of the fondest memories of his childhood.

"That's a time where we just don't think about nothing but playing football and having fun with your brothers," Douglas said. "Those were big moments for us."

The memory that rushed into Nelson Agholor's head was the football battles between neighborhoods in his native Tampa, Florida.

According to Agholor, entire blocks would form their own teams and sought to find out which block was best every Thanksgiving.

Agholor took part in his share of games, but stopped once he began playing high school football at Berkley Prep.

However, that didn't stop him from watching the games. Although Agholor had football practice earlier in the day, he would try his best to get home in time to watch games that carried as much intensity and competitive fire as a game under the Friday night lights.

"They got pretty intense," Agholor said.

Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds took part in similar neighborhood games in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.

"We used to do a big Thanksgiving game against another neighborhood, so they would come out there and it would be a big deal. A lot of people would come out," Reynolds said.

The neighborhoods were Lambert's Point and Park Place, and the games were full-contact tackle.

"We used to get at it," Reynolds said.

Jordan Matthews' Thanksgiving memory came on a much larger stage than "Church Hill" in East Orange and had a lot more at stake than neighborhood pride in Tampa and Norfolk. His memory came during his first season as a professional in 2014.

Matthews was a rookie on an Eagles team that was coming off a division title the season before and started the season an impressive 8-3, making their matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving even more meaningful.

With the Eagles leading 7-0, Matthews caught a 27-yard touchdown pass to extend the Eagles' advantage. The Eagles went on to win 33-10. Matthews finished with four catches for 51 yards with the score.

"It was just a good game all around," Matthews recalls. "We won. Everybody balled. It was cool."

But that wasn't the only reason why that particular day was memorable for Matthews. Fittingly, it was about the time he spent eating dinner with his family in Dallas after the game.

There was no shortage of food at the LeBlanc house in Palm Beach, Florida on Thanksgiving, as Cre'Von wasted little time running down what was on the menu during his younger years.

"Childhood days growing up playing 'toss 'em up, bust 'em up' in the front yard and then go eat that good, you know, chitlins, collard greens, ham, all that good stuff," he said.

Before he could dig into that day's selection, he had to deal with his parents, who would examine the damage that was done to his clothes playing football.

Needless to say, they were not always pleased.

"Holes in the socks," LeBlanc said. "The white ones, too, not even the black ones."

Whether it is a stadium full of thousands of people or kids playing on a patch of grass in the neighborhood, football and Thanksgiving simply go hand in hand.

And although the days of playing football until Thanksgiving dinner are days of the past, the memories these players, and many others, have of playing on this day will never fade.

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