New defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga didn't say much during his introductory press conference. But what he did say was delivered with a level of enthusiasm that was as infectious as it was exciting.
"We are here to hunt. We are here to win. We are here, and I believe and I promise that we are going to shock the world," Sopoaga said Wednesday. "I know that (the team is) doing their best to hunt and look for the perfect right guys for the system on defense, offense and also our special teams. And that's what I mean by that. We're going to surprise and shock the world."
His words weren't a "we are going to win it all" proclamation. They were, however, part of a mindset that head coach Chip Kelly is looking for out of his players. Kelly is famous for his "win the day" mantra, meaning that in order to talk the talk, players will need to put in the work necessary to walk the walk.
"I think it's evident when you watch Isaac play on tape the passion that he has for this game, and that's why we want him to be part of our organization," Kelly said. "If you don't plan on coming in here and winning then we're not going talk to you. So the statements that he makes are exactly how everybody in this football program feels and what it's all about."
Sopoaga certainly knows a thing or two about winning. A fourth-round draft choice of the 49ers in 2004, he was the anchor of the defense since his early days in the league. Despite starring in San Francisco, the 10-year veteran endured seven sub-.500 seasons before winning 24 regular-season games over the last two years and playing in this past season's Super Bowl.
At 31, Sopoaga now becomes one of the Eagles' elder statesmen on defense. Sopoaga is athletic enough to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme and strong enough to play nose tackle, should the Eagles decide to incorporate elements of the 3-4. Last season he played in 14 games, starting nine and accumulated 27 combined tackles and a sack as the Niners' space-eating nose tackle.
For general manager Howie Roseman, bringing in Sopoaga presented an opportunity to not only add a great player, but a great leader. The insight provided by Vice President of Player Personnel Tom Gamble, who served in a similar capacity in San Francisco for several years, let the Eagles know the kind of person and locker room presence they were getting in Sopoaga.
"You're talking about somebody that's got an impressive physical skill set," Roseman said. "It's hard to find those guys and then the character, the makeup of the player, is extremely impressive ... You can watch the tape, you can have the background, but you haven't lived with them. All the things that we thought we knew were confirmed with Tom being here."
Sopoaga's enthusiasm and willingness to get to work are exciting for Eagles fans eagerly awaiting next season. But what's most important now is doing what's necessary to create a winning culture. The Eagles took a defensive lineman-sized step in the right direction Wednesday by adding the veteran presence and talent of Sopoaga.
"We also know that it's not about talk, because what you say in March and what you say in April doesn't really have anything to do with what you do on Sundays if that's all you do is talk," Kelly said. "And the one thing I do know about Isaac and I do know about (tight end James Casey) is they both have unbelievable work ethics, and that's the key for us is to get a bunch of guys that aren't afraid to get down and dirty and go to work."
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