Leonard Weaver did not need a lot of time to make a lasting impression on the Philadelphia Eagles fan base.
Weaver left the Seattle Seahawks after four productive years and signed as a free agent with the Eagles prior to the 2009 season. There was an instant connection between the fullback, who boasted the rare ability to be a versatile offensive threat, and the passionate fans of this city.
"I think the fans gave me a lot of love not even knowing what I did on the field, not seeing what I had done yet and really just going off of the year I had before in Seattle where I really wasn't known," said Weaver, who officially retired as an Eagle on Tuesday. "Philly fans. They're known as the blue-collar fans. They work hard. They're gritty. They're going to talk bad about you. They're going to tell you to your face what time it is. At the same time, they're going to get it done."
Weaver embraced that love from the fans and was a difference-maker in 2009 rushing for 323 yards, adding another 140 receiving yards while scoring four total touchdowns. There are not many 250-pound fullbacks who can scamper for a 41-yard touchdown run, much like Weaver did in a blowout win at Lincoln Financial Field over the Giants that season.
"When you're scouting players, you're looking for players like Leonard," general manager Howie Roseman said. "He was a rare commodity for us and then off the field, the way that he was a role model for our younger players and how he acted in the community. We're honored that he chose to retire as a Philadelphia Eagle and we wanted to welcome him back here today."
Weaver was named an All-Pro at the conclusion of the 2009 season. He was rewarded with the richest contract ever given to a fullback in NFL history that offseason. The Eagles expected big things from their backfield in 2010 with Weaver paving the way as a fullback and being the complement to LeSean McCoy, who was entering his first season as the full-time starter.
However, Weaver's life would change on a play early in the second quarter of the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. On his first and only carry of the season, Weaver took the handoff in the backfield and was wrapped up high by defensive lineman B.J. Raji. Linebacker Nick Barnett tackled him low and as he pushed back Weaver's left leg went the way it wasn't supposed to. Weaver tore his ACL, PCL and suffered nerve damage.
"All I can remember doing was screaming as loud as I can and I heard the tendons pop," Weaver said.
Weaver rehabbed with an eye of returning to the field. He said he can run today without a brace. He said he can move well, but he still doesn't have full range of motion in his foot. But with two children, Weaver thought about being able to play with his kids and doing normal things as a father. If he did return, could he re-injure the leg or possibly injure the other one?
"I've accomplished a lot as a football player," Weaver said. "I was the highest-paid fullback thanks to the Eagles organization. Also going to the Pro Bowl, going to the Super Bowl in 2005, I'm very happy with it and I don't have any regrets."
Weaver does believe, though, that if he was not injured he would still be playing today. And even with the fullback position going the way of the dinosaur, Weaver thinks his skill set would work in Chip Kelly's offense. Instead of scouting opposing defensive schemes, Weaver is driven to use his voice in youth outreach and as a TV analyst. Unfortunately, Weaver resides in South Florida otherwise he would be a natural in the Philadelphia TV market.
"You get an opportunity to use your platform as an NFL player All-Pro to impact kids around this country who are looking at NFL players and what they go through," Weaver said. "I'm going to give them a taste of that."
Weaver played just 17 regular season games as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he was a fan favorite. And for Weaver to retire as an Eagle, the fans made the same indelible mark on him.
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