Jason Avant didn't have Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt's breaking-the-sound-barrier-like speed. But Bolt didn't catch 297 passes for 3,646 yards and 12 touchdowns during eight seasons as a wide receiver for the Eagles either.
Avant's career began when Philadelphia chose him later than he had hoped in the 2006 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan.
"I was excited, but I was also disappointed because I was drafted in the fourth round," said Avant, this Sunday's Honorary Alumni Captain presented by Santander. "I knew I was a better player than what they were projecting me as far as the NFL. I didn't run fast in the 40-yard dash, but I wasn't a 40-time-measurable guy. I knew that I was a lot better player than what my 40 time would indicate. I was happy to come to Philadelphia, but I had a chip on my shoulder."
Joining a team just two years removed from winning the NFC Championship and playing in Super Bowl XXXIX, gave Avant the opportunity to learn from his veteran teammates.
"Brian Dawkins helped me out. Donovan (McNabb) helped me out. There were a lot of guys that you could just sit down and talk to about life," Avant said. "That was a good thing that we had a lot of veteran leadership. I thought I learned more from the corners than I did from the receivers. A guy like Sheldon Brown, his balance he had at the line of scrimmage and his patience, taught me how to counter and not just use my feet to get open, but learn how to use power to get open."
A sure-handed receiver, Avant proved to be a reliable asset on offense and special teams, as well.
"My mindset was to always be the best player I could be," Avant said. "There are guys who naturally just have more ability than you. You can't do anything about it because God has blessed them with more athletic talent. But at the same time, for the talent level that I had, it was barely above the league standard, I was able to get so much out of it just because I worked at it and I appreciated it. I think that's what separated me from a lot of people.
"A lot of times because of the talent that a person is given, they never learn how to appreciate the game because they never really had to work for it. They never had the struggle of staying in shape or saying no to temptation in order to stay good at your craft. I approached the game with great gratitude and appreciation, but I also thought about other people. I thought about every counselor, every teacher, every person who ever had a positive influence on my life. I wanted to represent them well."
The lessons he learned growing up on Chicago's South Side helped him adjust to Philadelphia.
"You've got to fight for every inch, and so I was used to that. The game of football is one of those games ... it's not about who you look like or where you're from or what color your skin is, how much money your parents have, it doesn't matter. It's about what you can do on the field and I earned every inch of it," Avant said. "And the City of Philadelphia, I didn't want the burden of letting the city down. And lastly, as a Christian, I wanted to give God the glory so that when people saw the way that I played, they could say that there was something different about him."
Avant's teammates respected what he had been through. They voted for him to receive the Ed Block Courage Award in 2010. It honors players who exemplify a commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.
"It was special to me just because normally it happens because of an injury or something like that," Avant said. "But in my case, it wasn't because of an injury, it was because of my upbringing and being able to get out of the area I was in. It's a war zone where I'm from and it was flabbergasting to a lot of people once they realize and understood where I was from. I appreciated (the award) and I was thankful for it."
Avant, who finished his 10-year NFL career by playing the 2015 season with Kansas City, also appreciated the Eagles' fans.
"Football is a rest from reality to our fans and they cherish coming to the games," Avant said. "It matters when it comes to going to the game. It matters when you're out and you make someone's day. That's a huge responsibility for a team, but at the same time, you realize how passionate they are about something that you've been blessed to do. That's one thing you have to do in Philadelphia. If you can show that you're tough and you're willing to work hard, the city will love you for it. That's all they pretty much ask."
Earlier this year, Avant became a business franchisee when he opened Launch Trampoline Park in Deptford, New Jersey. A 35,000-square-foot indoor sports and family entertainment facility with over 15,000 square feet of connected trampolines, Launch is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It offers a variety of physical activities including open jump time, group exercise classes, and trampoline dodgeball.
"I always wanted to own my own business, and so I went back to the University of Michigan for (NFL Player Engagement) Boot Camps and financial classes and different things like that," Avant said. "I tried to take a course here and there to get some understanding, but then I said, 'You know what? What would fit my personality?'
"My kids kind of shaped that for me because I always go places with them. They always want to go somewhere fun, so I'm always looking for somewhere to take them. And going to all these different places, I started thinking I could run all of these places. I worked in the park in my first offseason and my second offseason and I fell in love with it. And during that time, I was going to different parks and seeing the different attractions that they had and seeing what I could do to make the park better. And so when I got done playing, it was a no-brainer for me to open up Launch Trampoline Park."