Jim Skaggs had a choice in 1962.
Coming out of the University of Washington, the offensive lineman was chosen by the Eagles in the 10th round of the NFL Draft. And he was also selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 12th round of the AFL Draft.
He headed East.
"That's when the American Football League was brand new," Skaggs says. "I think it was only 2 years old. There had been some start-up leagues in the past that hadn't made it and I know it sounds funny now, but back then, they were so new that it seemed like they were sort of a junior league.
"Most of the guys who had a choice went to the NFL. I know within a couple years that wasn't the case because of the salaries that they were offering in the American Football League. But when I looked at it, it seemed to be the logical choice for me."
Before making his way to Philadelphia, Skaggs played in the East-West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the Coaches All-American Bowl. And as it would turn out, he and the Eagles would have been better off if Skaggs would have skipped the fourth one – the Coaches All-Star Game.
"That's the one when the All-Stars used to play the (defending) NFL Champions. It was Green Bay that year. They had a week or a 10-day camp and while I was at camp, I broke my ankle," Skaggs says. "I came to the Eagles that year as a rookie, crippled. I had a cast on all the way up and sat out that whole season on the Injured Reserve. And then in '63, I was starting at tackle and I tore my left knee up in the third game and sat out the rest of the year."
Despite being able to play in only three games during his first two seasons with the Eagles, Skaggs learned from and was readily accepted by his veteran teammates.
"We were all kind of tight there. Eddie Khayat was a defensive lineman, and we were pretty good buddies. I was rooming with King Hill and he took real good care of me. He loaned me his car once in a while," laughed Skaggs. "I didn't travel with the team so when they went out of town, if I needed to go get a pizza or something, I could always take his car.
"The guys were pretty close and I felt close to a lot of them. I probably got into the swing of things as well as I would have had I been playing right along. I would say the team took me under their wings and I learned a lot from them."
Winning just five of 28 games, Philadelphia's 1962 and '63 seasons were the equivalent of being stuck on a tech support call for a few hours. Things had to change in 1964, and they did.
Joe Kuharich was hired to be the head coach. Veteran players including quarterback Norm Snead, running backs Ollie Matson and Earl Gros, and kicker Sam Baker were acquired. Future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Bob Brown was drafted in the first round. And a healthier, not to mention a more mobile, Skaggs became a fixture at guard.
The Eagles showed signs of being headed in the right direction. They went 6-8 in the first season under Kuharich, and posted a 5-9 record the following season. Seven of those losses were by eight points or less.
How did Skaggs keep a positive attitude?
"Well, it was hard," he says. "The motivation, I guess, was just the fun of the game and wanting to do your best. I'm sure that we'd all been a lot higher if we'd been winning a few more games. And it was hard on the coaching staffs. We went through quite a few coaches in those days. And quite a few players. So it was hard, but I think probably the personal pride in doing the best you could had to be all knotted together."
In 1966, Philadelphia recorded its first winning campaign (9-5) in five years and returned to the postseason. Granted, it was in what was called the Playoff Bowl against the Baltimore Colts in Miami and not for the NFL title, but the Eagles were earning respect around the league.
"Making it to the playoffs is a fond memory. At least being able to show up and go to that game," says Skaggs, who played all 10 of his NFL seasons for the Eagles, not including his rookie year when he was injured. "We ended up losing (20-14), but it was a little bit of a fluke deal that we did. But that was fun going down there. It brought back old memories of college bowl games and that type of thing. I'd say that and our Training Camps in Hershey. They were fun days."
In the years after he retired following the 1972 season, Skaggs stayed with the same team for his entire second career, too. Coincidently, he continued to protect people.
"I went from the NFL straight to work for State Farm Insurance," Skaggs says. "I was an agent for three years, and then I went into management and worked my way up to what they call an agency field executive. I stayed with State Farm Insurance in those capacities for my whole working career, 29 years."
Retiring from State Farm in 2000, Skaggs and his wife, Diane, make their home in Ellensburg, Washington. They have two married daughters: Sally and Linda, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
"I have a little (33-acre) hay farm in Central Washington that I'm leasing out," Skaggs says. "And I've always been a bird hunter. I have English Pointer bird dogs, a kennel of those. And I do a little bit of fly fishing, too. I have a trip planned with my lifelong buddy. We're going in June to fish in Montana."