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Spadaro: A sibling rivalry unfolds Sunday at the Linc

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

Christian Elliss has always been right by his brother, Kaden's side. They were high school teammates and they were together at the University of Idaho. They've battled, been best of friends, and made sure there was love in everything they did. So this weekend, for the first time in the NFL, they'll be together on the football field – Christian as a linebacker and special teams ace for the Eagles and Kaden lining up at linebacker, making his 10th start of the season for the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Together, as rivals.

"Oh, this is going to be different. I'm excited, excited to see him, have some fun," Christian Elliss said in the Eagles' NovaCare Complex locker room. "We've had a little bit of communication this week, a little bit of smack talk going back and forth. I'm just wishing him the best, wishing that he plays amazing, and wishing that we beat them by 50 points."

Laughter. Fun. Christian is proud of his brother, a fourth-year member of the Saints who was the 244th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kaden has been a role model in every aspect of his life and in such a pivotal year for Christian – he joined the Eagles as a rookie free agent in 2021 after he signed with Minnesota as a non-drafted rookie and also spent some time with San Francisco last season and then this year took the next step of making the practice squad, making an impact in the three games the Eagles made him a standard elevation from the practice to the gameday roster, and then, last week, he was promoted to the 53-man roster.

Advancing another rung in the NFL ladder has been huge for Christian, who sees the dedication Kaden has made. Another brother, Noah, a defensive tackle, joined the Eagles last spring and is on the team's Non-Football Injury List.

It is a family affair through and through for the Elliss clan, all 12 of them, whose father Luther, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman with Detroit after the Lions made him a first-round draft pick in 1995.

"It's always been football with us and Kaden is a role model for me as a father, a husband," Christian said. "His faith in God is second to none. His love for his family is something I look up to. His game, the way we work in the offseason, it's just so good to see him balling out and having a good year. He's taught me so much about the league and how to prepare to be at my best. We've always been so competitive, whether it's board games or basketball or whatever. We get in each other's grill and just have so much fun with it.

"There are 12 of us, so we can play five-on-five in basketball as a family and that's something most families can't enjoy. It's special, all in good fun and here we are getting ready to be on opposite sidelines in the NFL. Kaden has always kept me in a good mindset – God has a plan for me, God hasn't abandoned me. That's the mindset we've had. As for me and my house, 'We shall serve the Lord and God will prepare a table for us.' That's always the mindset he's kept me on, you know, 'You're good, you've got this.'"

Elliss joined the Eagles' practice squad for the start of the 2021 regular season, was released in October, joined San Francisco's practice squad for a week, and then came back to Philadelphia. He made his game debut in the regular-season finale against Dallas and recorded 3 tackles in seven defensive snaps. After spending the first few months of this season on Philadelphia's practice squad, Elliss was elevated to the gameday roster to play against Tennessee and he made an immediate impact, crashing downfield to make the tackle on the opening kickoff.

It's been all positive from there.

Elliss has been around the football when he's had defensive reps – 3 tackles in 10 snaps against the Titans, 4 tackles in 12 snaps against the New York Giants the following week – and he has been physical and forceful in kick coverage, registering 4 special teams tackles.

Now, he's on the active roster and he's keeping the same mentality: I have to be a better football player every day.

"It was an amazing feeling to get that call, to get that promotion. I want to do every single thing I can to help this football team and to bring glory to Jesus and do what I can to help make this team successful," he said. "I feel confident in what I'm doing, but you never know in this league. Things change. I want to be productive every time I'm out there. But you can't search for plays. You have to do your job. That's what the coaches are always telling us."

This is a special Sunday for the Elliss family, and in fact, it's a great football weekend for the family. Luther is a defensive line coach at the University of Utah, where another Elliss brother, Jonah, is a sophomore defensive end. The Utes are playing in the Rose Bowl on Monday, so the parents won't be at Lincoln Financial Field to see Christian and Kaden play against each other.

"I haven't talked to them this week, so I don't know what they're going through," Christian said, laughing. "I'm going to call them right now and see what they think. We're all going to have fun with it, but the goal is to win the game. I hope he plays well, but, hey, we're here to win this game."

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