In an NFL career that spanned 11 seasons and 346 receptions, including eight seasons and 297 catches as an Eagle, Jason Avant was a tactician who set up defensive backs and sharply ran his routes, displayed strong hands, and was one of the league's clutch third-down receivers running out of the slot. He "broke ankles," as they say in the business.
Now he's in Training Camp with the Eagles as part of the league's Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Fellowship working with the wide receivers at the NovaCare Complex.
"I'm so excited and grateful to be here, to help a group of very talented young players," Avant said. "I was a technical receiver. I wasn't the fastest receiver. I wasn't the biggest guy. I was able to get open by getting off the line of scrimmage and being precise. That's what I hope to help teach these receivers. It's a very talented group."
A fifth-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2006, Avant last played in the NFL with Kansas City in 2015. Since then, he's lived in South Jersey and has been extremely successful in running two exercise and fun zones, called Launch Trampoline Park. But when COVID-19 hit, his businesses closed. After a couple of months of waiting, fruitlessly, for the word from local government to open, Avant decided to take a different approach.
"I was a coach when I played. I was the coach in the receivers room," Avant said. "I approached the Eagles a few months ago and, at the time, they didn't know what Training Camp was going to look like. Then Doug (Pederson, head coach) and Howie (Roseman, executive vice president/general manager), along with Aaron Moorehead (wide receivers coach) gave me the go-ahead and here I am.
"We've got some great veterans here and we have three young draft picks, Jalen (Reagor), John (Hightower), and Quez (Watkins), and I'm going to do anything I can to help them develop their games. It's just not about speed and movement, and they have plenty of that talent. How can I help them get off the press? How can I assist Aaron with his program? I have known Aaron since he was a host when I went on a recruiting trip to Illinois back in the day. I went to Michigan, but I've known Aaron for a long time, and he's a great coach."
Avant has been visible in the Philadelphia media since his playing days ended, and now his career is taking a new turn. With fewer on-field reps this summer, it's especially critical to work on the little things in any circumstance to develop the young receivers.
That's what has Avant excited.
"Even if you're in a walkthrough, maybe I can help the young guys if I see something that they're doing," he said. "The biggest thing for a young receiver is being able to get off press (at the line of scrimmage). That's the hardest thing to do in this league, because the defensive backs are so patient. I've shown them some moves already of how to get off press, some footwork things. They have the ability and the talent."
What is the future for Avant beyond Training Camp? He's taking this day by day – "I'm a methodical person," he says – and he is doing what he did as a player in Philadelphia from 2006-13: Helping the team any way he can.
"We're all here to win," he said. "That never changes. You just do your part to get that done."