The Eagles officially locked up one of their most reliable players on Monday when they signed wide receiver Jason Avant to a five-year extension. As the team's slot receiver, Avant is often the go-to guy on third downs and he thrives in that role because of his fearlessness across the middle of the field and his outstanding hands.
When meeting the Philadelphia media, Avant, who grew up in a dangerous neighborhood in Chicago, gave thanks to everyone who has helped him along the way.
"It's a privilege to be up here at this moment with a new contract and I really realize that it's not about me," Avant said. "I give credit the most to Jesus Christ for just changing my life around. I just thank him for everything. I give thanks to my family, my wife Stacy, cousins and everyone, grandmother who's smiling down on me even now for praying for me to even be in a situation like this. I also want to thank the Eagles organization for taking a chance on me. Those people, Mr. Lurie, Mr. Banner and Howie Roseman and Coach Reid ... they were in a tough position because I didn't run the best 40 time and it was kind of looked down upon at that time and they took a chance on me and I really am thankful for that. Hopefully I can continue to have success in this league and I'm just thankful for them.
"I'm thankful for my teammates, Donovan who has been leading me and showing me the ropes here for a while. My other teammates, the receivers. I know I wouldn't be in this position if it weren't for, you know, the DeSean Jacksons and even going back to Greg Lewis and all those guys, the Dawkins' and the Westbrooks that have been really influential. I realize that it's not all about me and I'm thankful for this moment."
Avant's role as the slot receiver is predicated on his willingness to do the dirty work, and he explained why he's so often willing to sacrifice his body for the team.
"I think it has something to do with not considering yourself as too good to do things," he said. "I think I'm thankful to be in this position. When I play the game of football - this is just true, this is from my heart - it's not something where I want to go out and get all the catches and I'm just thankful to be out there on the field each moment. I come from a place where people were getting shot in the streets and I know that could have been me. So for me to come out and play the game of football, it makes no sense to me to go out and want all the accolades and the credit, I'm just thankful being out there."
Avant set career highs in receptions (41), receiving yards (587) and touchdowns (three) in 2009, but his productivity as a receiver is not something that came easy. Widely considered to have the best hands on the team, Avant's hard work has paid off.
"Well I think that Celek has the best hands first of all, he catches pretty naturally," Avant said, shining the spotlight on someone else per usual. "I think it's something that's God-given in terms of natural hands. A lot of guys have natural hands but then there's something that you have to do. Like you can give DeSean his speed, but he had to do something in order to constantly get better at it, running track and those types of things. And I think that being on the Jugs machine and going out to Arizona (for summer workouts), constantly focusing on tennis balls and stuff when I'm around my house, trying to catch everything when I get a chance, I think those types of things help.
"You don't want to get to a place where you're content in this game as far as working hard ... I realize that there are guys that are coming in and out of this league each day and one thing that I'm going to do is put myself in the best position to stay here. I like being here so whatever I need to do to be the best player I can, that's what I'm going to do."
Indeed, Avant's affection for the city of Philadelphia was apparent throughout his press conference.
"I love the city, I love the team, I love the mindset of the coaches here and I didn't really want to have to go to a place besides Philadelphia," he said. "I'm just thankful because I know the city of Philadelphia, they thrive on hard work and that's the team that we have and I'm just thankful to be part of a city like that ... it's a gritty city and I think that's the type of guys that we have in the locker room and I think the management recognizes that.
"I think that when you find a place that's good for you and the people that are good, I think it's more important to be around rather than money."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 3:16 p.m., March 8