A very familiar face to Eagles fans is now the newest member of the team's coaching staff. Former standout left tackle Tra Thomas has been with the Eagles throughout the offseason as a coaching intern and impressed head coach Chip Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff so much that he has been hired as an offensive coaching assistant for the 2013 season.
"Tra was outstanding," Kelly said. "He came in with the (Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship program). It really started in the summer, but when we got a chance to talk to Tra about doing it, the next day he was here, so he was here all spring with us, all through camp, extremely dedicated, one of the all-time great Eagles. I think the experience he brings not only as a player, he can relate to the offensive linemen – one thing about Tra, when you sit there and watch film with him is just how much he studied tape on his own and what he learned about the game and I think he's imparted that to a lot of the young linemen we have. Part of being really good up front is developing that talent. I think having someone like Tra around here will help us develop those young guys and I think he's got a bright future in coaching and we're excited.
"Most guys are college coaches who apply to that (coaching internship program) and we've had some really good guys here, but they all left because they had to get back to their colleges. We were just fortunate that Tra still lives in the area and it was kind of a no-brainer for us to make sure we could keep him here through the season."
Thomas, of course, played 11 seasons for the Eagles after he was drafted by the team in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He started 165 games over those 11 seasons, earning three trips to the Pro Bowl.
"You try to teach them as much as you can and hopefully they'll take to it," Thomas said of his new role, in which he's especially hands-on with the team's young offensive linemen. "All you can do is give them the technique and then it's up to them to really take to it. You just try to help them out as much as possible. You know everybody's not going to make the team, so you just try to pour as much as you can into them and hopefully they'll go out there and show themselves out there on the field."
Thomas also explained how he came to be such a prolific studier of game film.
"It started with (former offensive line coach Juan Castillo), just working with Juan and how much he's taught me that you start picking up on little stuff," Thomas said. "I just carried that over where I like to come in on my own time and just watch a little something. It's kind of gotten to be like a little obsession I think sometimes. When we have a game, I can't wait to get in here the next day and watch the film just because I want to see some stuff. So there are sometimes when I don't go to sleep at night because I just want to get in here and look at it and just see it. You can learn so much from it and I like teaching off of it so it's a major part of the game. It's something that you definitely have to study and take advantage of."