Jonathan Gannon has sat under the learning tree of some great defensive minds during his NFL career.
Between Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Eagles Defensive Coordinator Emmitt Thomas, and Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus, Gannon has had a slew of great teachers who prepared him for his current role as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.
And while Gannon attributes his vast knowledge of the game to those three men and many others, he attributes his coaching style to someone nowhere near the periphery of the NFL. That person is Brian Becker.
Before retiring in 2019, Becker spent nearly 40 years teaching and coaching basketball at Saint Ignatius High School, an all-boys Catholic school located in the Ohio City section of Cleveland.
Becker led the Saint Ignatius basketball program to three regional titles and the school's lone Ohio High School Athletic Association state title in 2001. With 20 seconds left in the title game, Becker's starting point guard was sent to the line with a chance to seal the victory. That player was Gannon.
"There's no other guy in the world that I would rather have on the line than Jon Gannon because he's a true competitor, he believes in himself, he believes in the system, and when your guy is out there, you can live and die with him making shots because the kid always did the right thing all the time," Becker said.
It has been 20 years since Gannon helped lead Saint Ignatius to championship glory, but he still subscribes to the school's motto: men for others.
Achieving goals for one's self-fulfillment is fine, but in order to fully live up to the school's creed, one must also serve others, whether that is the community at large or a group of teenagers living out their hoop dreams.
As the point guard, Gannon was an extension of Becker on the floor, which meant there had to be an open line of communication between the two. However, that line of communication was open to all of Becker's players, as he regularly sought their input.
Because of that, a trust was built between the players and the coaching staff. The result was a school-record 25 victories in that championship season of 2001.
"There was always mutual trust and respect in our locker room between the players and our coaching staff," Becker recalled. "I think that's when really good things happen – when players and coaches trust one another."
"It wasn't 'my way or the highway,'" Gannon said of Becker during a recent episode of the Eagles Insider podcast. "He was a players' coach, so to speak. I always remember thinking to myself that if I ever coach, whatever sport I coach, or whatever I get into down the road that I wanted to emulate because it was really about serving the players."
Gannon got his chance to coach at Louisville under Bobby Petrino after an injury ended his football career. He followed Petrino to the NFL once the latter became the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Despite previously having no intentions of ever coaching in the NFL, once Gannon got there, he never looked back.
At every stop along the way to Philadelphia, Gannon has carried with him the same desire to serve his players.
"My job is to make you the best player that you can be," Gannon said. "There's a bunch of different ways to go about that, but that's ultimately how I always thought in my mind. When I talk to a player or someone that's been under my watch, that's my job."
"Philly's got a gem in my mind," Becker said of Gannon.
Becker readily admits he was not paid an immense amount of money to do his job at Saint Ignatius but knowing that what he and the school taught still sticks with their students even decades later makes it all worth it.
"You don't appreciate the kids or your impact on the kids until they're out and they become men," Becker said. "Watching how kids give back to the community in the right way, you know you've done the right thing. It fills your heart."