To hear Justin Peelle tell the story, the surprise isn't that he's entered coaching so quickly; it's that it took this long.
Peelle, the assistant tight ends coach for the Eagles, hung up his playing laces only a few months ago after the Pittsburgh Steelers made him part of their final roster cuts. Now, five months later, he's already on the other side, which, oddly, is where he expected to be all along.
"It's something I always wanted to do," said Peelle. "I never thought I'd play as long as I did in the NFL."
After entering the league out of Oregon in 2002 as a fourth-round pick of the San Diego Chargers, Peelle did more than stick around. He played 151 games during his 10-year career, making 68 starts along the way. Though his career receiving numbers (123 catches for 1,003 yards) may look pedestrian, they speak to the value Peelle brought to his four different teams in other aspects of the game.
But how exactly did Peelle end up on this new Eagles coaching staff? It all started with his relationship to the Oregon football program, where Peelle would cross paths with head coach Chip Kelly and try to pick his brain.
"I had gotten to know Chip over the last couple years," Peelle said. "When I saw that he took the (Eagles) job, I reached out to him and it worked out well ... Here we are."
As Peelle begins his new career, he's lucky to be working in tandem with an experienced position coach. In fact, tight ends coach Ted Williams is the longest tenured coach in franchise history.
"He's seen it all," Peelle said. "He's been around different situations, different players, so he's been able to kind of walk me through some things.
"He's been a really good mentor for me so far."
As for the state of the tight end position on the Eagles roster, Peelle has high expectations for the transition into a new offense.
"I've always been a fan of (Brent) Celek, just from watching him play," said Peelle. "I never knew much about Clay Harbor, but just from watching him on film, he's got everything you want in a tight end. So it's an exciting group.
"They're going to be asked to do a lot of things. They're going to have to win in the pass game and then be able to hold up in the run game, just like in every other system. It's not that different in that aspect. You have to be able to block the line of scrimmage and get open in the pass game."
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