When Jeffrey Lurie purchased the Eagles in 1994, his goal was to bring the first Super Bowl Championship to Philadelphia. That goal was fulfilled seven months ago as the Eagles dethroned the New England Patriots in one of the most thrilling title games in NFL history. Tonight, he shared the Championship Moment with the community and the story with us.
It was clear, as Lurie looked out onto the field on February 4, that it was a special group that brought this championship to Philadelphia. "In addition to our talented players and coaches, it took everyone in the organization and the support of our fans coming together to achieve this goal. It was a very proud moment for me," he said.
As he held the Vince Lombardi Trophy in his hands on the stage at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis that night, he also thought a lot about the people he would dedicate that seven-pound sterling silver symbol of victory to – his mom and his late father, Morris, who lost his battle with cancer when Jeffrey was just 9 years old.
Community has always been at the forefront for Lurie. When he became the Chairman and CEO of the Eagles, he immediately recognized and felt the connection between the team and the community. Lurie made sure that the Eagles were not only going to thrive on the field but in their neighborhood outreach as well. He was instrumental in the creation of Eagles Youth Partnership and the 22 playgrounds built, and its transition to the Eagles Charitable Foundation with its signature program, the Eagles Eye Mobile, serving tens of thousands of children each year, as well as the launch of the Eagles Autism Challenge that raised over $2.5 million in its first year.
Lurie knew how jubilant the city was to be Super Bowl Champions for the first time. He thought long and hard about how to share the Championship Moment on Thursday night with the fans and said, "I truly believe that it takes a village to win a Championship, and thanks to our incredibly passionate fans from around the world, we were able to bring the first Lombardi Trophy home to Philadelphia. It is a privilege and a great honor to be celebrating this unforgettable moment in team history with our Eagles family."
Lurie walked onto the brightly lit field carrying the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the stadium buzzed with energy. The roar of the crowd escalated to an all-time high. He joined 150 members of the community waiting to greet him at midfield. This group represented various members of the Eagles family including Season Ticket Members, Eagles Care partners, those on the autism spectrum, community leaders, military, police, international fans, among others. Everyone shared in the revelry as the 2017 World Champions banner was revealed for the first time.
We had the opportunity to connect with some of the people and families to learn more about their stories, including Alleena Banks, who shared the moment with her 18-year-old son, Ameer Crockett.
It's a memory that almost didn't happen.
A budding football star at Martin Luther King High School, in the West Oak Lane section of the city, Crockett was in the wrong place at the wrong time a year ago when a robbery attempt took place. Even though he was a juvenile, Crockett faced a potential sentence of 45 years in prison.
The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project stepped in and provided free legal counseling to get the charges dismissed. But the aid didn't end there. YSRP stayed in touch to make sure Crockett was enrolled in school and on track for success.
"It's like having another family," Banks said. "Just because you live in the hood, it doesn't mean you have to be hood. There are a lot of parents in the hood who still manage to work and try to raise their kids right. Sometimes they fall through the cracks. It's just good to know that there's someone else out there who has your back that's willing to step in and go the extra mile for single parents. It's always good to know there's someone else you can turn to. It's a blessing."
A lifelong Philadelphian and die-hard Eagles fan who hosts watch parties, Banks said her son could see up close and personal what happens when hard work and perseverance pay off.
"They're leaders," she said of the Eagles' players. "My kids and other kids look up to them. We need more men like them."
Krystal Scollon received a call on Tuesday from former Eagles Care partner, The Center for Grieving Children. The call turned out to be an invitation for her and her 9-year-old son Makell Gillyard to attend an Eagles game. With the season opener just two days away, she never thought it was for THIS game.
When she realized that not only would she be attending the game, but would be a part of the Championship Moment, she was overcome with emotion. She admits that she was excited, yet nervous, at the same time.
Makell's father, Rodney, passed away after a 10-month battle with melanoma in 2015. The Super Bowl was a magical run for the Eagles, as the team overcame difficult odds and circumstances to win it all. In many ways, the Eagles were a team of destiny in 2017. The stars aligned for Krystal and Makell as well. Makell's birthday party was the night of the Super Bowl, just days after he turned 9, which is Nick Foles' jersey number. And Krystal's mother, Maryann, had recently turned 52. We all know which Super Bowl this was.
Just as Lurie thought of his father after the signature win, Krystal wondered what it would have been like for her son to share that night with his father. "That was pretty hard for me," said Krystal, a South Philadelphia native who can hear the Fight Song from the stadium. "I just never thought I would be going through some of these things with Makell without his father."
She takes comfort in that her son has maintained his childlike joy and is not jaded by the traumatic loss so early in his life. "He's changed a lot, but he's still a child," she said. "Some kids, when they go through something that dramatic, it changes their outlook on being a child and still having that innocence. That hasn't changed with him. He's very aware that his father is not here and misses him, but he doesn't let it hold him back."
Kathleen Tarzwell is, like Scollon, also a single mother. Her son, Braeden, was born at 25 weeks weighing less than two pounds. "A walking, talking medical miracle," Braeden is now 10 years old but continues to fight each and every day. Braeden has autism. Lurie has a deep understanding of the joys - and challenges - of what it's like raising a child who is on the spectrum as a close family member also has autism.
"He continually shows me what it means to be an extraordinary human being and because of that, I will never give up on making the world aware of all that he has to offer, all that every individual with autism has to offer," Tarzwell said. "I know in my heart that the Eagles Autism Challenge is doing everything I want for the future of (those with) autism, for the future of my son, and I could not be more proud to represent that." Tarzwell, who works for Wipfli, a corporate partner of the Eagles, raised over $13,000 for the inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge.
Tonight's Championship Moment was also a surprise. Obviously, we all knew the banner was going to be shown, but Bill Brady didn't know he was going to be on the field for the occasion.
It was all set up by his son, Mike, who nominated his father to be the Season Ticket Member of the Game. Bill has been a Season Ticket Member for over 50 years and passed down the tradition of Eagles football to his children and grandchildren. Mike's brother, Mark, and son, Brendan, were also on the field.
"He started taking me to games when I was 8 years old and it sort of subsequently picked up steam from my brothers," Mike said. "I have two sons, they now go to the games with us so, at the end of the day, my dad is responsible for all of us being the Philly sports fans we are. Growing up, our life revolved around the Eagles' schedule from planning parties and events and going to church. It was all around the Eagles."
Bill was not able to attend the Super Bowl, but Mike connected through FaceTime from the stadium as soon as Tom Brady's - no relation - Hail Mary fell to the ground incomplete.
"It was unbelievable," Mike said. "He still gives me a hard time because I think I texted him 14 times that night just saying I can't believe the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Just that heartache and the joy and everything we experienced going to the games, it was something that was just unbelievable. It's something I'll never forget."
Tonight's Championship Moment was one that was shared by the entire community and as Lurie noted, rightfully so.
Take a look at the best photos from the Championship Moment before the Eagles' season opener against Atlanta.