Todd Herremans officially retired as an Eagle on Friday at the NovaCare Complex, looking fit and trim and happy, a husband and a father of two children thankful for the 11-year NFL career (10 seasons and 127 games with the Eagles). He’s a success story all the way around, a kid from tiny Saginaw Valley State who beat the odds and made the league and then further wrote his own narrative and stayed for 11 seasons.
It’s a happy ending for Herremans, a feel-good story.
Having been here for a long time – I’ve covered every Eagles game since the strike of 1987 and have been a member of the organization since 1997 – seeing someone like Herremans grow up an Eagle and retire healthy and go into the next phase of life with a lot of good things in his life is pleasing. Herremans was always a good guy to work with, a positive energy to be around, and someone who appreciated his place and who worked hard to stay here. He was an unsung piece of a very good Eagles offensive line who made it by being versatile and athletic and intelligent. He was a prototype as a try-hard guy who was coachable, and those are the kinds of players who last a decade in this league.
Herremans’ announcement was the latest in a series of trips-down-memory-lane moments for me since the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Seeing all of the former players at the Parade of Champions and spending time with them afterward and speaking honestly with them was illuminating – they were thrilled for the players and the coaches and the organization and certainly the fans, but they also wished it had been their Eagles teams that had brought home the Lombardi Trophy, so in that sense it was a bittersweet feeling for the alums.
The Enshrinement of Brian Dawkins into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the summer provided a dazzling barrage of Eagles memories, mostly of a younger Dawkins flying around the field to the delight of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, disrupting offenses, crushing ball carriers, and inspiring everyone around him. Dawkins loved the moment and the spotlight and he maximized his trip to Canton, Ohio as thousands of Eagles fans celebrated the accomplishment.
Next, there was a brief moment in the Atlanta Falcons’ radio booth prior to the opening game when I saw former Eagles defensive end Hugh Douglas and he pulled up his dress shirt to show the Eagles T-shirt he wore underneath.
“I will always bleed Eagles green,” Douglas said, laughing.
A couple of weeks after that Seth Joyner and Clyde Simmons were inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame and we spent most of Saturday and part of Sunday together. They were drafted by the Eagles in 1986, at the time I was a part-time reporter for the Daily Local News in West Chester covering the Eagles, among all four of the city’s professional sports teams. Eagles Digest started in 1989 when the “Gang Green” Eagles were in full flight under head coach Buddy Ryan. Emceeing as Joyner and Simmons went into the Hall of Fame was a special moment and hearing them talk about their days in Philadelphia and the names we threw back and forth brought back so many memories.
We remember the Eagles past fondly, sometimes in moments of sorrow, too.
The recent deaths of Tommy McDonald and Wes Hopkins hit home. McDonald was a grand man, filled with vitality and joy. His funeral last week was a celebration of his life, as the McDonald family put forth a beautiful display of memorabilia from McDonald’s star days at the University of Oklahoma through his years with the Eagles and, finally, his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One fan came up to me and told me how he admired McDonald and modeled his life after McDonald.
“I’m a little guy and Tommy was a little guy, and I saw the way he played and carried himself,” the fan said. “He was my role model. He taught me how to be confident.”
At the same time, the news of the death of former Eagles safety Wes Hopkins broke, and the memories of No. 48 patrolling the deep defense for those defenses of the 1980s and early 1990s came back once again. Hopkins would have been one of the game’s greatest safeties had it not been for a severe knee injury that kept him off the field for most of two seasons. Too bad. Hopkins never came all the way back from that, and while he had some great moments with Buddy Ryan and then Bud Carson overseeing the Eagles’ defense, he would have been so much more had he been healthy.
We didn’t see much of Wes after his playing days ended. He was a quiet man who lived in the deep South in obscurity. He was hard to contact. Perhaps that was the way he wanted it. All I know is that Hopkins was always a gentleman in the locker room to any reporter with a question. He was a stand-up guy, he was tough as nails, and a great football player. He is No. 48 when I think of all-time Eagles.
On Friday, it was Herremans who directed the trip down Memory Lane. More great times. More Eagles talk. Another reminder of all that has happened in the Eagles past to make this Eagles present so very special. These are moments to cherish because they just aren’t going to last forever. Minnesota comes to town on Sunday, and it’s a very big game. The past and the present collide in this moment of nostalgia.