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Where are they now? FB Anthony Toney

Former Eagles fullback Anthony Toney
Where are they now? FB Anthony Toney

Buddy Ryan took care of the Eagles' offensive backfield needs for the next four seasons during the 1986 NFL Draft when after choosing Ohio State halfback Keith Byars with the 10th pick in the first round, the head coach selected Anthony Toney, a fullback from Texas A&M, 27 picks later in the second.

"Well, Buddy was kind of like, 'Hey, we're bringing these two guys in and we expect these two to play.' He expected us to be able to run the ball, be able to catch the ball, to be able to run-block and pass-block. I know that for sure," Toney laughed.

The duo would have a delayed start while Byars dealt with a broken foot, and so Toney would spend Training Camp running, catching, and blocking as a halfback, a position he played in high school and initially at Texas A&M.

"They weren't really sure how his foot was going to heal and if he'd be able to play right away," Toney says. "He came to practice and it was like, 'Is his foot going to be OK? Is he going to be able to play?' So there was that. But I was willing to do whatever was going to help us win. Whatever the team needed."

Toney had an advantage of having familiar teammates in Philadelphia. Offensive lineman Ken Reeves had recruited him in college. And he, wide receiver Ron Johnson, and cornerback Herman Edwards, were all raised within 20 minutes of one another in Salinas, California. In fact, Johnson's mother was Toney's junior high school principal.

With all the concern about Byars' health, it was actually Toney who would miss the first four games of their rookie season because of an ankle injury. He played in 12 games, starting at fullback the final five, and finished third on the team with 285 yards.

During the strike-interrupted season of 1987, Toney had a team-high 127 carries for 473 yards and five rushing touchdowns. In 1988, he helped the Eagles begin a three-year run of making the playoffs.

"We were a pretty young team. It was just us getting to learn how to play at that pro level," Toney says. "And Buddy was bringing in some young guys. He would have a tryout every Monday and Tuesday, it seemed like. You would see new guys walking in the locker room, so you're always working hard to make sure you get to keep your job.

"But I think it was just us maturing as a team. We had some good players. And I think our attitude was that we worked hard and we were in shape. Now it was just time to go out and make the plays."

With his career shortened due to problems with his hamstring, Toney played five seasons for the Eagles, rushing for 2,294 yards and 14 touchdowns, along with 122 catches for 1,031 yards and five touchdowns.

"I wasn't like this All-Pro-every-year-type of back or anything like that," Toney says. "And I don't think we were featured that way, but I think that me and Keith, we were able to do things that we needed to do to help our offense out. And probably my biggest point of that was my blocking on runs and on pass plays. I thought I kind of brought that to the fullback position. And then when they wanted me to play tailback, a lot of time that had to do with blocking certain linebackers. And so I did it to help.

"(My fondest memories from those days) would definitely have to be our locker room because you just had so many characters in there. When we were in there, we had a good time. When it wasn't practice or we weren't having meetings, guys were joking around."

Following football, Toney returned home to Salinas, where he worked as a unit manager for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monterey County for over 22 years.

"I worked with Ron Johnson," says Toney, who left in 2016. "We had a reunion at the Boys & Girls Clubs (in September) and they honored me for my community service work. They asked me to say something and I told them that Boys & Girls Club job was the most important job that I ever had because I was affecting the lives and making changes to the lives of these young kids, trying to make it a positive thing for them.

"I really enjoyed working there and Ron and I (still) do a football camp. We get a few hundred kids every year for that. And I was just talking to one of my high school classmates and was telling her a story about one of the kids that came up and started telling me about how I affected his life. I told her, 'That's the greatest feeling right there.'

"You know, you have a kid that's in trouble and headed the wrong way, and you're able to reach him. And a couple years later, you see what that whole conversation did for that kid or that you continuously staying on him to do the right thing made a big difference in his life."

Still making their home in Salinas, Toney and his wife, Mary Ann, have an adult son, Derrick. Toney is now the co-owner of Salinas Valley Embroidery.

"I enjoyed working with the kids and this job is different, but you're still helping people out," Toney says. "I'm there daily and will pick up and drop off items. And I show customers items that they'd like to see before they order. They come in and we work with them, get their logos digitized, and put them on hats or jackets or shirts. Whatever they might need."

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