As the #Eagles prepare to take on the Falcons in Week 1, we look back at the 2004 NFC Championship Game. View the full gallery here...
Despite having never stepped foot in Philadelphia before being chosen in the fifth round of the 1998 NFL Draft, Ike Reese, the Eagles and the city all seemed to be destined for one another.
"Coming to Philly, coming to a team that I knew was all about defense and toughness and great players that had played in the '90s: the Reggie Whites, the Clyde Simmonses, the Seth Joyners, the Jerome Browns, the Eric Allens, I just thought it was a perfect fit," Reese said.
With a 3-13 record, the Eagles were less than perfect during Reese's rookie season. In fact, the dismal campaign led to Andy Reid replacing Ray Rhodes as the head coach.
"Andy was a man of very few words," Reese said. "That first meeting, the tone in his voice, it never got high, it never got low, it really stayed at the same level. And just the look that he had in his eyes let you know that he was about serious business.
"He let us know that this was going to be a winning culture. It was going to be about doing things the right way. He let us know from that first meeting, what was going to be tolerated and what wasn't going to be tolerated. He had all of our attention very early."
Reese believes the winning culture began during the 2000 season opener in Dallas, the start of five consecutive winning seasons.
"I'll never forget it. It's about 120 degrees," said Reese. "We'd been preparing all week and all we were asked were questions about how hot it's going to be in Texas. Would we be able to withstand the heat?
"The triplets (Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin) were sort of at the end at that time, but they were still the triplets. And they were still the Cowboys and were still the barometer in our division along with the Giants.
"I remember (special teams coach) John Harbaugh coming up to myself and Mike Caldwell and saying, 'Heads up. Coach Reid is thinking about calling a surprise onside kick to open the game.' And Mike and myself looked at each other like, 'Are you serious? I don't know if it's a good idea to do that on the road in the opening game.'
"And lo and behold, we're in the huddle for the opening kickoff and Coach Reid comes up and says, 'Alright, let's do it. Surprise onside kick.' Everybody in the huddle jumped up and got excited that we were going to do it. And we executed it.
"Duce (Staley) went on the run for (201) yards that day and the defense played a very good game. I think that (41-14 victory) sort of gave us the confidence that you know what? Our coach believes in us. That allowed us to start trusting him and we just took off from there."
While Reid believed in his team, Harbaugh more specifically believed in and was impressed by Reese. A reserve linebacker and special teams ace, Reese provided leadership and defined reliability on the field and in the locker room.
"People that don't understand football don't understand that Ike has a huge role on this team," said Harbaugh. "Here's a guy that plays and knows all three linebacker positions. He's in our starting nickel package. He plays on all four special teams units and he's a team leader."
"As players, we're always looking for validation from our coaches," Reese said. "I had the privilege to play for some pretty demanding coaches, but demanding in a good way. They demanded excellence.
"John and I go a long way back, and that's why the words are so impactful to me. John recruited me out of high school when he was at the University of Cincinnati. We just happened to land (in Philadelphia) together. I had a lot of one-on-one sit-downs with him before meetings, on our own, just talking about life in general. So it's very impactful and heartfelt to hear those things from a coach who I had a lot of respect for and who to this day, I still have a lot of respect for."
Well respected by his teammates, Reese retired in 2007 after playing seven seasons with Philadelphia, including the 2004 NFC Championship campaign, and two with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I think the thing I'm most proud of is that I made it to the National Football League and I was able to stay," said Reese. "In a sport where it's a three-and-a-half-year lifespan on average, that's not really a career. Some people just get the benefit of saying they played in the National Football League. I can actually say I had a career in the National Football League."
Reese is now well into a second career in Philadelphia. As a radio broadcaster, a profession he began to consider while in college, he co-hosts the Mike and Ike Show with Michael Barkann on SportsRadio 94WIP, 10AM-2 PM weekdays. For the Eagles Network, he is an analyst on Eagles Game Plan which airs locally on NBC10.
"I had an aspiration for being on TV and doing studio analysis and those types of things, but when I first started listening to WIP in 2000, I couldn't turn it off," Reese said. "They would be critical of my team and my quarterback. I never found it offensive; I found it to be entertaining.
"It was the back and forth with the callers that was the most entertaining part of it. And that's what sort of drew me to it. When I took the job, the thing I most loved about being on the radio is that it's not just one-sided opinion, you get feedback from the people that these teams mean the most to.
"Hey, I rented the Eagles jersey for seven years. These fans have been Eagles fans for decades upon decades upon decades. It was something about their hurt and their passion for their team and this town that was endearing to me. And I felt that being a former athlete, I could give that perspective. But I also respected the perspective of a fan. I understood. It made sense to me."
Reese, who along with Chris McPherson, co-hosts the Post-Game Show presented by Ricoh, which can be seen on PhiladelphiaEagles.com and on the team's app, also understands that critiquing men who are in the same shoes he wore not too long ago isn't easy.
"That's the hardest part of the job," said Reese, who is also active on Twitter @ike58reese. "It was harder when I first started doing it because I came back here in '07 and still knew everybody on the Eagles' team and coaching staff.
"Being a former player, it could have been easy for me to just come on and basically be a mouthpiece for the organization or make excuses when players don't play well and that would be understandable. But I don't think I would have lasted long. The fans wouldn't have allowed me to last very long doing that. And so I just felt that being honest and truthful would be the best way to do it."
Off the air, Reese and his wife, Renee, make their home in South Jersey with their children: Elijah and Jada.