Believe it or not, the beginning of the Eagles 2014 season is rapidly approaching. Players will report back to the NovaCare Complex on April 21 for the start of the Eagles offseason program. Join us as we count down until the Eagles are back in town …
James Casey, Chip Kelly's first free-agent signing as head coach of the Eagles, did not contribute the way he might have imagined on offense, but he did make himself into a core special teamer in 2014. He played on every unit and registered 13 total tackles, embracing his role instead of sulking about it. By the end of the season, he was seeing increased snaps on offense, primarily as a blocker who would motion across the formation and block down on backside "wham" plays.
First Eagle To Wear 13: OL George Keneally (1933-35)
Current Eagle To Wear 13: WR Damaris Johnson (2013-present)
A Philadelphia native and wide receiver who grew up in Texas and played collegiately at Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso), where he set a number of all-time records, Hughes was drafted by his hometown team in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft. Though he recorded just six receptions for 68 yards and no touchdowns in three seasons with the team, Hughes was known and valued for his work on special teams. It was what happened to Hughes after his time with the Eagles, however, that left an indelible mark on the history of the NFL.
Hughes was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1970, where he continued his role as a backup wide receiver and special teams demon. In 1971, however, disaster struck. During the final minutes of a game against the Chicago Bears on October 24, Hughes collapsed on the field while jogging back to the huddle following a pass play in which he was not the intended target. Bears linebacker Dick Butkus signaled to the sidelines immediately for medical assistance, and an unconscious Hughes was taken from the field and straight to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The autopsy revealed the cause of death to be a heart attack from advanced arteriosclerosis that rendered his coronary arteries 75 percent blocked and resulted in a blood clot that cut off circulation to his heart.
The entire Lions team, including head coach Joe Schmidt, attended Hughes' funeral in Texas. The franchise retired his jersey number 85 and named its Most Improved Player award after Hughes.