Often, when a player says that he is "just here to compete" or that he "just wants to help make my teammates better," the natural response is to roll your eyes. For some reason, though, when rookie kicker Carey Spear uses his version of those clichés, you believe an underlying sincerity.
"I think the old Vanderbilt staff did a great job of preparing us to act as professionally as possible on a daily basis and you see that here, guys investing themselves every day, whether it be in the film room, on the field, in the weight room or recovery," Spear told Dave Spadaro on PhiladelphiaEagles.com. "Guys just take it very seriously. So coming from Vanderbilt, seeing it just at a next-level kind of deal with the Eagles in the locker room, it's pretty awesome to see guys really wanting to invest themselves, embracing the mission that we have here.
"It's really impressive to see all the guys, whether you're the first-round pick or an 11th-year vet, guys coming in every morning, embracing this mission, trying to be mentally and physically tough, not making excuses every day. So it's impressive to see all these guys line up and respect coach Kelly and what he has going on here. It makes you really excited to be an Eagle."
Though he's thrilled to be in Philadelphia, Spear was not surprised to join the Eagles following the NFL Draft. He had individual workouts with five teams in the run-up to the draft, one of which was with Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.
"We had a great workout, great dialogue," Spear recalled. "That line of communication was pretty consistent from that point up until the draft. Knowing that the Eagles had limited draft picks, there wasn't much room for drafting a kicker, and I understood that. I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to be an Eagle, understanding what coach Kelly has going on here with the organization. Everyone's aligned on the same mission."
General manager Howie Roseman has said this offseason that the team would look to create competition at every position. As a kicker, Spear is here to compete with veteran Alex Henery. So how did Fipp evaluate the three-time Vanderbilt captain?
"The way it's formatted is, depending on the coach, they'll have you come in, kick X amount of kickoffs, so many deep, so many right, so many left, maybe get your onsides kicks so they can see your efficiency in that, whether you're able to hit it deep enough, high enough, and well enough directionally," Spear said. "That's important. So just being prepared for all those different aspects of kickoffs, and then being ready to obviously just hit X amount of field goals. So that's exactly what coach Fipp had me do, hit some directionally. I was prepared for it. I had a couple workouts before that, so I understood the format."
In college, Spear connected on 78 percent of his field goals (39-for-50), including four makes of over 50 yards. On kickoffs, 34 percent of Spear's kickoffs went unreturned, though that number was an impressive 64 percent during Spear's senior season.
"This is a guy that (special teams coach Dave Fipp) worked out," said Roseman, "and (Fipp) said 'You have to see this guy. He's a little guy and he throws his body around. He's fun.' So we have some competition there and that's what it's all about. Let's get competition at every spot and let the best man win."
Spear's willingness to be physical on kickoff returns has earned him early cult status among Eagles fans. The YouTube clips of him, well, spearing opposing kickoff returners have become popular links and the nickname "Murderleg," created without Spear's knowledge by a Vanderbilt fan blog has gained traction. But, like everything else with Spear, that aggression on the field tracks back to his commitment to the team.
"No, (I don't hold back), and that's just part of being a team player, trying to embrace the mission," Spear said. "At Vanderbilt, we had four values – positive attitude, great work ethic, compete in everything you do and being willing to sacrifice. So that was part of it, just being willing to sacrifice. So whether that's some social time on campus, your body on the field, just being a team player, being all-in, which coach Kelly speaks about being all-in as an Eagle, embracing the mission, being able to sacrifice."
As for the forthcoming camp competition between Spear and Henery, you'll be shocked to learn that Spear is not approaching the summer with the mindset of winning a job.
"I'm not looking at just making it, right now I'm just focused on being the best teammate I can be," he said. "I have great leadership in Jon (Dorenbos), Donnie (Jones) and Al (Henery). Those guys have been awesome thus far. In particular, Al's taken me under his wing and shown me the ropes … I want to make Al better, I want Al to make me better … Like I said, I couldn't have found a better organization where guys are building each other up and not trying to bring each other down."
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