Philadelphia Eagles News

Sproles Helps Others Find Their Voice

On Friday, four Eagles were named to the 2014 AP All-Pro Second Team ...

Darren Sproles' first season with the Eagles was a marquee year of his career by any statistical measurement.

The veteran running back and speedy weapon extraordinaire set career highs in rushing touchdowns (6), punt return yards (491), punt return average (a league-best 13.3-yard average) and punt return touchdowns (2) after being acquired last offseason in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. He lit up opposing teams by running the ball for nearly 6 yards per carry, catching the ball for nearly 10 yards per reception and scoring a total of eight touchdowns on the year.

He was voted to his first Pro Bowl and also named an All-Pro for the first time, honors long overdue for one of the most prolific yet underrated playmakers in the National Football League.

While the regular season didn't end the way he had hoped, the offseason brings the trip to Arizona and a chance to better himself as the Eagles gear up for 2015.

Next month his offseason is starting with another battle, albeit one that comes off the football field and will be watched on television not on a Sunday or Monday, or even Thursday or Saturday, but a Friday night.

And it's about battling against something a lot more important than opposing defensive linemen.

Sproles will appear in the 4th-annual NFL Characters Unite documentary, premiering Friday, February 6. The film is part of a public service campaign to combat bullying, prejudice and discrimination. In the film, Sproles will detail his battle with a speech impediment he's had since he was a child.

Sproles said when he was 8 or 9 years old, he found out he spoke with a stutter. He began taking classes to deal with the impediment to learn how to deal with it.

As a child he said he wasn't often picked on for his stutter, something he attributes to his ability to excel on the gridiron.

"I think what helped me was that I was so good in sports," Sproles explained. "People didn't pick on me for stuttering."

He found success in football, and now he wants to use his platform as an NFL running back to let kids with similar speech impediments know that they're not alone, and that they're able do anything they want.

"It feels good to use (the platform of football) to really touch the youth," Sproles explained. "I really wanted people to know that when you stutter, that shouldn't stop you from doing something that you want to do. That was pretty much my main thing."

Sproles still isn't a big fan of press conferences, but he said he's come a long way since entering the league, when the spotlight often proved to be a little too much for his liking.

"When I first started, I was real bad at (interviews)," Sproles said, "but I've improved at it."

And his impediment hasn't been a total hindrance. In fact, it helped him find a bond with his wife, Michel, who said that Sproles' quiet personality went perfectly with her outgoing personality from the moment they met.

"Sometimes when people communicate with him they often get frustrated because he can't get his thoughts out quick enough for other people. For me, I showed patience, and even though I talk really, really fast and I communicate really fast, I was patient with him and I made him comfortable being himself," Michel said. "I wasn't trying to force him to be anything other than what he was. I think that was one of the things that kind of drew him to me more so."

The documentary will air Friday, February 6, at 7 PM on USA Network.

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