Stewart Bradley knew his place. After the announcement that the Eagles would honor the 1960 NFL Championship team with a series of events leading up to and including the season-opening game against Green Bay, Bradley stood on the turf at Franklin Field and put into context what it all meant to be part of the tribute and a piece of history.
"We're here because of those players and the things they did to help make this game so popular and so successful," said Bradley. "I completely respect what they did and I appreciate what they did to help get us where we are. We're just on the shoulders of all the players before us, all the greats like the ones here today."
There were plenty of great former Eagles on hand Monday at the University of Pennsylvania as the Eagles enthusiastically announced their plans to, among other things, don the uniforms the Eagles wore on December 26, 1960 when they defeated Vince Lombardi's Packers 17-13. It was a great event, a special day, done with class and respect and, yes, reverence at what that Eagles team accomplished.
Of course, it hasn't happened since. The Eagles have been close, very close, but they have yet to win a league championship since then and it is the thorn and the source of immense frustration and motivation for the franchise. At a time now when the Eagles are introducing a new generation of stars the fans, they prepared an elaborate unveiling of their plans to reach back and touch the grand past of the franchise.
"I think it's a great thing and I'm honored to be here," said Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik. "The 1960 team was special. True champions. We won it the hard way."
The Eagles banded together that year for head coach Buck Shaw with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin providing tremendous leadership. The Eagles gave up a lot of ground to the Packers in the Championship Game, but they won on a late touchdown by running back Ted Dean and then the defense held in the final minutes and, oh boy, how many times have you seen highlights of Bednarik sitting on running back Jim Taylor until the clock read 0:00 and then Bednarik jumped off of Taylor and started celebrating madly? It is heart-pumping stuff, even to this day.
For the players who were part of it, well, there was nothing that has ever compared to that moment.
"Oh, to come back in a game and beat Lombardi and the Packers and to do it at home, that was incredible!" said wide receiver Tommy McDonald, ever energetic. "Of course I think about it. It was something that you never, ever forget. We were the champions! It was an incredible feeling, still is."
What was especially rewarding to see on Monday was the reaction of the players, past and present. The Eagles honored the 1960 team, represented at Franklin Field by Bednarik, McDonald, end Pete Retzlaff, Riley Gunnels, Dick Lucas, Maxie Baughan. Today's Eagles trotted out Bradley and tight end Brent Celek and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and they all really, really enjoyed the moment.
The players gave their thumbs up on the uniforms -- Kelly Green tops with white numbers, white pants and green helmets with silver wings. The uniforms look great. Awesome. A true throwback and something the fans can truly identify with. The throwbacks from a few years ago when the Eagles celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the franchise were loud and proud and bright and yellow and blue, I know, and these are just more about, well, more about the Eagles.
"I think they're cool," said Celek. "I like them."
Said Jackson: "They're very fashionable. I like the green. I think they're going to be big."
Said Lurie: "This franchise has a proud past and we are here to honor that past. At the same time, we're looking at this season with a lot of excitement and energy. It is a celebration on every level this year."
Who doesn't agree with that? The Eagles approached this day with great, great care and detailed planning. They leaned heavily on an external advisory board that included play-by-play voice Merrill Reese, former play-by-play man Bill Campbell, Hall of Fame sportswriter Ray Didinger, former Eagles public relations man Jim Gallagher, Retzlaff and season ticketholder Casey Duffy. There were many meetings held and every scenario was discussed and reviewed.
And the rest was a picture-perfect day. It was so much fun! There is so much energy going with this team now, all of this youthful spirit and there remain the highest of expectations. Fifty years between championships is too many. It is painful, honestly, to consider.
The Eagles are making sure to include the past and the fans as they look toward 2010. Everything is coming together so nicely, this "neat" mesh on the roster (says Andy Reid) and the way the front office has reached out to yesterday's stars and to the greatest fans in the world.
"I think everyone is going to love it and we want to start the season the right way and celebrate 1960 and at the same time usher in a new season the right way," said Lurie. "I think everybody is excited about getting the season going right now."