Rodney McLeod takes absolutely nothing for granted. From going undrafted to being a player signed to a five-year deal by the Eagles on the first day of free agency, McLeod has transformed himself into a starting safety in the NFL.
His "nothing for granted" mindset stems from his uncle Frank Johnson, who passed away in early August during Training Camp. McLeod dedicated this upcoming season to Johnson who served as an inspiration to McLeod because of his perseverance and positive attitude after complications from back surgery left him paralyzed from the waist down in his early adult life.
"I've never seen him shed a tear about anything or felt like, 'Why me?' He kept his faith in the Lord and was always positive," McLeod said. "Seeing him in that state, it makes you take nothing for granted. If he can do it, I have nothing to complain about. I can never imagine myself being in his state and remaining as positive as he did."
Coming out of the University of Virginia, McLeod didn't let going undrafted deter his dreams of playing in the NFL. After having a solid collegiate career in which he finished his senior year with honorable mention All-ACC honors, McLeod developed a mindset that would ultimately garner him a spot in the league.
"Whatever you can take from a veteran take it," McLeod said. "For a lot of guys like myself coming in, my role was special teams. Special teams in college wasn't a big deal, but here in the league guys make a 10-year career off it. So you can't take (the opportunity) lightly. Don't take anything for granted, just give it your all."
McLeod spent his first four NFL seasons in St. Louis with his final two years under the tutelage of Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Under Williams, McLeod thrived setting career highs across the board. What's the significance? The Eagles' new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz spent two seasons learning from Williams in Tennessee. Williams was the defensive coordinator and Schwartz was a defensive assistant then linebackers/third-down package coach. McLeod seeks to continue his success on the defensive end as he noted some of the parallels between the two coaches.
"They're very similar, both passionate coaches. (Schwartz) comes to work each and every day and demands a lot from his players. He's just a great guy to be around," McLeod said. "He jokes when it's time to joke, and when it's time to work, it's time to work."
Since signing with the Rams in 2012, the Maryland native has not missed a single game and has started in every game following his rookie year. After joining the Eagles, McLeod teams up with arguably one of the best players in the NFL at the safety position in Malcolm Jenkins, who earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2015. When asked about the growing relationship between them, McLeod offered nothing but praise about the nine-year veteran.
"Very passionate guy, very sound in his technique. He knows a lot," McLeod raved. "Since day one, I've been trying to just pick his brain. He'll jump certain things and I'm like, 'What did you see right there?' It's just incredible to see his work ethic. I've seen him on film and heard about him but actually seeing him in person, it's remarkable and impressive."
Likewise, Jenkins expressed his pleasure in his new teammate.
"He plays with a lot of energy and flies around. He's one of those safeties that I think Philadelphia will like," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He has that attitude; he's not afraid to stick his nose in the fan."
Moreover, McLeod is thrilled with his new teammates and the City of Philadelphia. He anticipates bringing his "nothing for granted" mentality into the locker room and onto the field as well.
"I think everyone has the right mindset and right approach since day one," McLeod said. "I love Philly. The city is great. I've adjusted pretty well and the fans are great as well. They're very passionate about their team here and I'm just happy to be here."