"Is Trent Cole here?"
Shareef Miller wanted to meet the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end who he grew up cheering for as a Philadelphia native and die-hard Eagles fan.
The rookie defensive end spotted Cole and dashed across the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field to introduce himself to the Eagles legend who ranks second in team history in sacks (85.5) behind Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White.
Cole was eager to bestow some advice that allowed him to carve out a 12-year NFL career, 10 in Philadelphia, after being selected in the fifth round (146th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. Miller was a fourth-round pick in the most recent iteration of the draft, but was only chosen eight spots ahead of Cole.
There was some football talk. The two discussed their favorite pass-rush moves. Cole reminisced about his Training Camp battles with Jason Peters that were so competitive and fierce that the two would have to be separated and not allowed to square off against one another. Cole loved the game and it showed each and every day in practice.
Just as important, Cole explained how to approach life off the field which presents some unique circumstances for Miller who grew up here. At the end of the conversation, Miller offered his phone to Cole who put in his number and told him to call anytime as he still consults with former teammates Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions," Cole said. "You'll likely be doing someone else a favor as well."
Interactions like this took place throughout the locker room Monday evening as the Eagles hosted a dinner for the rookie class where the draft picks and undrafted first-year players met alumni. Former slot receiver and route-runner extraordinaire Jason Avant lined up across from rookie free agent DeAndre Thompkins to showcase proper footwork and release technique.
"The best advice I can give to the rookies coming in is give it everything you got," said former tight end Brent Celek, who retired after winning Super Bowl LII. "These opportunities don't come very often and in a city like Philly, they only come once. Take advantage."
After a whirlwind Rookie Minicamp weekend, the new Eagles integrated with the veterans for the first time on Monday as Phase 2 of the Offseason Program continued at the NovaCare Complex. The dinner was one of the first in a series of events designed to onboard the rookies. The purpose is to give them the best chance for success.
Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, president Don Smolenski, executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, and head coach Doug Pederson all spoke to the rookies at the dinner. Lurie welcomed the players to the Eagles family and stressed how the team's hunger to win another Super Bowl was stronger than ever. Smolenski explained how the players are now part of Eagles Everywhere, a worldwide community of the greatest fans they could ever dream of playing for.
"If you show you care as much as they do, they will love you forever," Smolenski said.
"This is a great town to play in," Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Ron Jaworski said. "You have the resources of everyone in this city. You have the resources of the former players and, of course, this awesome Eagles organization. If you ever have a question, there's a lot of people who will support you."
Pederson has the perspective of being in the rookies' shoes as the Miami Dolphins signed him in 1991 following the draft. He overcame daunting odds to carve out a playing career that lasted until 2004. Pederson started at quarterback for a year in Philadelphia in 1999 and another the following season in Cleveland.
"We all have an opportunity. Nothing's ever handed to us. All we have is an opportunity to perform," Pederson said to the rookies. "Are you committed or are you only interested? There's got to be a level of commitment. There's got to be a level of sacrifice. What are you willing to give up? What are you going to do to help the Philadelphia Eagles become a World Champion again?"
As stressful as the next few months will be for the rookies, Pederson also shared another bit of advice – have fun.
"Let your personality show on the field. I learned that a long time ago as a player. Be who you are," Pederson said. "Mistakes are going to happen. Yeah, they're going to happen. Learn from them and move on. Take pride in that. Take ownership in that."