As the Eagles get ready to take on the Bengals, tight end Brent Celek, defensive end Connor Barwin and center Jason Kelce prepare for a trip down memory lane.
They were teammates long before their time commenced with the Eagles. It all started at the University of Cincinnati, four miles north of Paul Brown Stadium where this Sunday's game will take place. The former Bearcats spent at least one season with one another before leaving for the NFL. Only one school (Florida) has produced more current Eagles than Cincinnati, a school outside of the Power 5 conferences that isn't known as a pipeline to the NFL. Celek, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, was the first of the three to start the Bearcats-to-Eagles trend.
"When I first came here, Trent Cole (also a former Bearcat) was here, so I got to play with him," Celek said. "Connor and I played the same position in college, so it was awesome."
In 2011, Celek was joined by Kelce, a sixth-round draft pick of the Eagles. Two years later, the Eagles signed Barwin as a free agent after spending four seasons with the Texans.
Having the opportunity to play your NFL career with your former college teammates adds a sense of comfort. For Barwin, reuniting with Celek and Kelce made his transition from Houston "a lot easier."
"It's obvious that they've been great players. They were great players in Cincinnati, and they've been great players here for the Eagles," Barwin said.
Kelce enjoys being able to reminisce about "old playing days" with current teammates.
"It's awesome. … I've been on the same team with Connor Barwin for almost my whole career with the exception of when he spent some time in Houston. Brent was older when I first got to Cincinnati, so I didn't really interact with him that much," Kelce said. "It's been fun having that little connection when we go back to Cincinnati ... to have a few guys on the team that went the same kind of route you did in terms of getting to the NFL."
Because of belonging to different conferences, the Eagles and the Bengals play in the regular season just once every four years. The last time the two matched up was in 2012. Due to an injury at the time, Kelce was unable to play. This Sunday will be the first Eagles-Bengals contest for Kelce.
"I think it'll be great. That's a fun place to play. I know a lot of people in that city. There's going to be a lot of friends and family that will be at the game, so it'll be a fun time," Kelce said.
Barwin previously played against Cincinnati during his time with the Texans. In fact, Barwin recorded his first career sack there in 2009. This time around, Barwin has one particular goal in mind.
"Hopefully, we get a win. That's the most important thing and that's all I really care about," Barwin said.
For Celek, Cincinnati is more than just his old college stomping grounds. It's where he grew up. His family owned Bengals season tickets. To this day, Celek doesn't forget how many times the Bengals passed on him in the draft over nine years ago.
"I want to whoop 'em," Celek explained. "The Bengals had five chances to draft me they never drafted me. That's my hometown, but now this is my home."
The Eagles are preparing to travel to Cincinnati this weekend to face the Bengals on Sunday. Check out some of the Bengals' star players.