Dawg Mentality. It's the live-in-the-moment motto that Nick Sirianni has been preaching since walking into the building and taking the reins as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. The meaning behind it, when boiled down to simplest terms, is a reminder that we are in control of our own destiny. All of us – fans, players, mascots, whatever.
Sharif Lacey – better known as Reef the Lost Cauze – took a Dawg Mentality approach for his track on the Eagles Gameday Poster Playlist presented by Pepsi for Week 18. Fittingly, with the team ready to embark on what everyone hopes is a lengthy playoff run, his pulse-pounding symphony is titled "The Way."
It's the final chapter in the season-long series, a song with enough gusto to break the gameday huddle and push the pile forward on 4th-and-1. Reef's lyrics, backed by a driving bass beat and mic'd up players, tells the story of going the distance by any means necessary:
You want that gold and the glory boy, this is the way;
You gotta fight for this, put your life in this;
Scratch and claw for this, put your heart in this.
I heard that boy got that dawg in him, I heard that boy got that dawg in him;
I heard that boy can't be dropped, and he never gonna quit, and he never gonna stop
It literally sounds like a SportsCenter highlight come to life. Which is 100 percent by design.
"I wanted it to sound like ESPN highlights where you're seeing the guy score or break a tackle and run for 100 yards," Reef said. "It's a motivational track, about perseverance and hard work. Whether it's the game of football or the game of life, you're going for it and you're determined to get it.
"I was picturing Eagles highlights in my head as I was writing it, like I was seeing Brian Dawkins and Reggie White and Randall Cunningham. When all this is said and done, I want this song to be able to stand on itself as a motivational anthem for anyone who needs one."
Reef called the opportunity to collaborate with the Eagles a "point of extreme pride" and he was on "cloud nine." This was everything to him. So, when Chill Moody called and offered him the opportunity to join the project over the summer, the answer was an immediate yes. The bones of the song were already written, it was just about adding the right amount of passion and personal perspective.
"I came out the womb bleeding green," Reef said. "This is my team. This is my city. This is everything to me. When we say bleed green, we ain't joking around. Now I can tell my son that your dad did something with the Eagles. I'm taking him with me to the game. This is a big deal. It goes beyond sports and music."
OPTICAL ILLUSIONS: GIANTS MAY LOOK SMALLER THAN THEY APPEAR
James Boyle wanted to play around with reverse optical illusions when he started working on rough sketches for the Week 18 poster art, kind of like an "objects in the mirror are closer than they appear" aesthetic. The New York Giants are essentially small in a graphically charged oxymoron.
Boyle recalled a conversation he had with Eagles Senior Graphic Designer Matthew Schwenk about the process: "What if the Eagle was the Giant? Meaning, I wanted to draw the Giants, the football team, as the smaller element on the page."
His illustration shows a giant eagle staring down menacingly on the Giants' starting offense, looking hungry and ready to devour all 11 players. The quarterback looks lost and confused; the left tackle grabs his helmet in fear; and the rest of the team wants no part of the impending doom.
It's funny in retrospect since Ndamukong Suh played off the same theme following a 48-22 victory over the Giants on December 11 when he tweeted out: "sometimes giants are smaller than you think." Boom. Wait, there's more going on ...
"It's a frightened Giants team stepping onto the field at the Linc," Boyle said. "In my mind, it's lauding the Eagles' defense since the Giants are backed up in the end zone and you can see the Philly fans in the stands wearing jerseys of some of the all-time greats, guys like Reggie White, Jerome Brown, and Brian Dawkins."
Boyle drew on his own intense fandom for the intricate details of the crowd scene. His youngest memory was Cunningham's magical escape over Carl Banks and the Giants at Veterans Stadium, then he turned the page over to the Donovan McNabb era. He's always felt a strong bond to the Eagles and hopes people feel that in his artwork.
"I tried to bring as much of my own passion for the team to it as I could," Boyle said. "The feeling of how much the city is part of the team or behind the team. That's what I love about the Eagles. The team kind of brings everybody together."
That connectivity is how the Collingswood, New Jersey native got picked for the project in the first place. Schwenk had a poster from Boyle's insanely popular "Philly Tarot Deck" series – Jason Kelce dressed in his Mummers costume and Nick Foles holding the Lombardi Trophy from a throne are two favorites – hanging up in his house.
"Each card is a unique illustration of a Philly icon," Boyle said. "That series got a lot of eyes on my work, but this (working with the Eagles) is probably one of the biggest single commissions I've been hired to do. It's exciting."
SUPER BOWL MEMORIES: 'I CRIED LIKE A BABY!'
The Eagles' Super Bowl victory in 2017 was a joyously bittersweet moment for many Philly residents who trekked out to local cemeteries to celebrate with their loved ones who never got to taste a championship. Reef called it the pinnacle of his fandom and toasted his grandfather.
"I cried like a baby that night," Reef said. "I was thinking of him and how much he would have loved to see it. We were on top of the pile. We finally did it. Generally, people aren't nice to each other in this town. That week, everyone was cool."
Meanwhile, Boyle phoned his brother in Vermont as the two siblings made plans to attend the Super Bowl Parade of Champions together. They had endured a lot of close calls in the 2000s on the backs of McNabb and Dawkins. This time, the Eagles were on top of the mountain – and, in a twist of fate, they got there by beating the New England Patriots, the same team that had dashed their hopes in 2004.
"What a happy memory," Boyle said. "All the catharsis, and the relief that we finally had one."