Because of his role as the NFL's Vice President of Player Engagement, Troy Vincent thought it was probably bad news when he got the phone call yesterday. Sitting in a cab in New York, Vincent recognized the number as originating from the NovaCare Complex.
"I was thinking there's a player issue or there's something that we need to do, or maybe they need me to make an appearance to come and speak," said Vincent. "My first response (to Eagles chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie) was 'Is everything okay?'"
Instead, Lurie informed Vincent that he would be the next player inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame.
"What do you say?" said Vincent. "So all night long, through the night, it's just been a reflection because I truly have put football in the rearview mirror, and it's now about my children and the young men playing this game ... To be acknowledged from the owner, and for him to say 'You represent everything we want our players to do on and off the field.' ... I usually leave the crying for Brian (Dawkins), but --
"When you go back and look at just the history, you talk about 1933-present, I think of folks like coach (Jim) Johnson, Jimmy McDonald, Dick Vermeil and Ron Jaworski, Reggie White and Randall (Cunningham), Eric Allen, Harold (Carmichael) and Mike (Quick). For me, to be in the same sentence, the same breath, it's humbling. Football for me was in my rearview mirror, and to get the call last night from Jeffrey, to be considered in this class of one of the finest players to represent the Eagles, I'm thankful and grateful."
For Vincent, playing at a high level for the Eagles was always a dream. Born in Trenton, NJ, Vincent spent his formative years "15-20 miles from Veterans Stadium" in Lower Bucks County. So when the opportunity presented itself to join the Eagles when Vincent hit the free agent market in 1996, he was intrigued.
"It was a unique opportunity, one that I had questioned at first because I had heard of individuals having challenges going back home and playing, but I felt like what an opportunity," said Vincent. "A dream come true. Growing up in the Mercer County, Lower Bucks County area, playing ball at Pennsbury, going away to play at Wisconsin college but then returning back home to play a professional career where my grandparents and my mother had an opportunity to see me play ... Now, I guess, 15, 20 years later, I performed."
In the process, Vincent, who recalled the infamous "Pickle Juice" game as one of his favorite memories and said "I just used to like pounding on those Giants," developed a deep bond with the Eagles fans.
"That's what it was all about," he said. "When you talk about coming back home and being able to represent not just - the Philadelphia Eagles represent the Delaware Valley area. That 12th man was everything and that's what I think about. Every Sunday for those eight-to-10 home games a year, Brian Dawkins and myself and Bobby (Taylor), we looked at each other before every kickoff and said, 'Let's give them what they came here to see, let's give them a show, let's perform.' And the fans, being part of the community, growing up there, but then being able to play and produce, that's what it was all about, the 12th man. There's no greater 12th man. I know we don't get the best representation nationally, but I'll tell you what, I wouldn't want to play for another group of fans if I had the choice.
On Monday, November 26, during halftime of the Eagles' nationally televised game against the Carolina Panthers, Vincent will have one more chance to step on the field in front of the die-hard Eagles faithful.
"I can't wait to go back out and thank them again," Vincent said, "one more time."
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