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Eagles rookies share special memories and messages on Mother's Day

Ainias Smith and his mother, Samrya
Ainias Smith and his mother, Samrya

Making it to the NFL takes sacrifice. There are long days, a lot of traveling, and many ups and downs. Through it all, there is one person who has sacrificed more for a handful of Eagles rookies.

Their mothers!

As the Eagles celebrate Mother's Day, rookies from different backgrounds and upbringings share what makes their moms so special and why getting drafted was the ultimate Mother's Day gift.

Trevor Keegan, who has a close bond with his mom, Amanda, classifies himself as a "momma's boy."

"I love her to death; I'll do anything for her, and she knows that," Trevor said. "I can't thank her enough for everything she has done for me and our family. She has been such a good figure and someone to look up to.

"She is my rock. We did everything together, she came to every game, she supported me, the way she supports our family, the way she holds down our household, keeps my father (Mike) in check, keeps me in check."

Amanda, who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, didn't miss a game during her son's five years at the University of Michigan. Trevor's sports-loving mother has been there every step of the way, from little league baseball to college football.

Trevor fondly remembered getting his first iPhone while playing 9u baseball in his hometown of Crystal Lake, Illinois. Upset that everyone had a phone, and he didn't, Trevor was challenged by his mom to hit a home run in exchange for an iPhone. In the last game of the season, Trevor hit a home run and was rewarded with an iPhone the next day.

Amanda has taught Trevor a lot of life lessons through his first 23 years of life, but none more important than how to handle adversity.

"Life can throw obstacles at you, it's up to you to overcome it and hurdle those obstacles," Trevor said. "She does a great job with that. If adversity comes, she just punches it right in the face."

Jalyx Hunt with his mother, Jaaqua
Jalyx Hunt with his mother, Jaaqua

After calling Executive Vice President and General Manager Howie Roseman “Big Pimpin” and getting drafted by the Eagles, Jalyx Hunt's mom, Jaaqua, was the first to bear hug him.

"For her, it's really just seeing her son achieve something he's put so much work into," Jalyx said. "I did say thank you to both my parents before the draft, regardless of where I went, I wanted to say thank you for making me the person I am today."

Jalyx can thank his mom for his unique name. Her favorite perfume at the time was called Calyx but everyone in the family had names that started with a J, so she switched the first letter out and the name of the Eagles' rookie outside linebacker was born.

Jaaqua, who is a teacher at Volusia Pines Elementary in Florida, taught Jalyx many valuable lessons growing up.

"Regardless of where you are, stay the same person," Jalyx said. "With that becomes working to be a good person because you don't want to be stuck in your ways and have a negative impact wherever you go. Always work to be a great person, don't mind being that great person wherever you go."

It was a rare occasion when Jaaqua missed one of her son's games, but if it happened, she was always the first one Jalyx called when he got off the field or the court to talk to her.

The game that stuck with Jalyx was his middle school basketball championship. After the final buzzer sounded, he took a moment away from celebrating with his teammates to look up into the stands to see his mom fist pumping and filled with joy. Safe to say, Jaaqua has been filled with excitement since her son was drafted two weeks ago.

Running back Will Shipley has never met someone who smiles more than his mom, Tammy.

"My mom means everything to me," Will said. "Ever since a young age, I've had very special parental figures. My mom, just being who she is, has been a role model for me, someone I look up to because of how strong she is and her positivity."

Tammy, a graduate of NC State, supported her son every step of the way, even when he committed to her alma mater's biggest rival.

Will's mom helped transform an old shed in their backyard into a workout space where he and his brother, James, spent time lifting weights and grinding their way to becoming college athletes. Tammy came up with the name "Shred Shed" and painted a logo on the side of the place where Will called home during his free time.

A big fan of music, Will got his love for hip-hop, and underground rap skills, from his mom. Those close to Tammy view her as a music connoisseur, who creates raps for her friends' birthdays.

"I try to be like her as much as I can," Will said. "The way she carries herself is something I really look up to."

The two were able to spend draft weekend together with extended family in their hometown of Weddington, North Carolina.

It was an anxious wait for Will but after he got the call from the Eagles, the first person he embraced was his mom.

"I don't think there's anything better than a mom's hug," Will said. "It was such a special moment being able to share it with her and hug her after the call came in."

Cooper DeJean with his parents, Jason and Katie, at the NovaCare Complex
Cooper DeJean with his parents, Jason and Katie, at the NovaCare Complex

While both Cooper DeJean's parents were athletes, he got most of his natural talent and abilities from his mom, Katie. She was a college softball player at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.

It was Katie who encouraged her oldest son to play multiple sports when he was younger before he had to choose one. Cooper was a four-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, and baseball, while also running track.

"She's been amazing in my life," Cooper said. "Growing up, she supported me 100 percent with whatever I wanted to do, whatever sports I wanted to play. Everything she has done for me; I couldn't appreciate it more."

Katie and her husband, Jason, work at Swanson Insurance in her hometown of Odebolt, Iowa. She would often take off work to attend Cooper's games, college visits, and other sports activities.

The support that Cooper received from his mom was unparalleled whether it be during his decision to attend his dream college of Iowa, battling through a leg injury in 2023, or the process to get to the NFL.

"She knew making it to the NFL was my dream and she supported me every step of the way," Cooper said.

That support and unwavering love showed after Cooper got off the phone with the Eagles during the second round of April's NFL Draft, embracing his mom with a long, emotional hug.

Cooper getting drafted was a special early Mother's Day gift for Katie, but he still wants to do more to repay his mom for everything she has sacrificed to help him achieve his ultimate goal.

"Having her there to support me when I got drafted was awesome," Cooper said. "I'm going to have to do something special for her for Mother's Day."

Ainias Smith used one word to describe his mom, Samyra – Strong.

"She's great, probably the strongest person I know," Ainias said. "She is the perfect mother anyone could ever ask for."

Samyra has football running through her blood. Her husband, Maurice Sr., played in the CFL and Arena League; her oldest son, Maurice Jr., spent three seasons in the NFL as an undrafted free agent; and her youngest son, Ainias, was just drafted by the Eagles in the fifth round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

After all the sacrifices she made for Ainias and his brother, Samyra is once again repaid by a son making it to the NFL. The Smiths celebrated the draft at an Airbnb in Galveston, Texas, where Ainias and Samyra shared an emotional moment where a lot of tears of joy were shed.

"For sure, it was a great pre-Mother's Day gift," Ainias said. "We had a real deep, long moment after I got drafted. I told her, 'Mom, we did it, you have nothing to worry about anymore, I'm going to take care of you.'"

While reflecting on the impact his mom had on his life, Ainias was thankful for the roof that she put over his head and the food she provided for the family.

On Mother's Day, Ainias wanted to share a special message with his mom.

"When it comes to how much I love her, I honestly don't think how much she knows I love her but at the same time I don't feel like I tell her enough, so Mom, if you're reading this, I love you so much, you did everything to build me up to the person and man I am today. I hope everything you have done doesn't go unnoticed."

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