It's not always how you start.
Selected by the Eagles in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft, Jeremiah Trotter was deactivated for seven of the first eight games of his NFL career before getting a chance to be on the field to play mostly on special teams.
However, 1999 was a new season and a new start. Becoming the starting middle linebacker for first-year head coach Andy Reid, Trotter led Philadelphia with 202 tackles.
"I wasn't ready my rookie year. I wasn't ready to play," said Trotter. "I went through a lot. I lost my dad (Myra) right before mini-camp started. That was tough on me. I kind of lost my desire, my passion to play football. But I knew I had to because I came out of school early, and I promised my dad that I'd take care of my mom. So I really didn't have a choice but to play, but I'd lost my desire.
"When Andy came in, he brought in Jim Johnson with his attacking style defense, and that was a huge part of my success. The way he used me and Brian Dawkins and that defense, he really allowed us to go out and just play our game."
Philadelphia had a 5-11 record in Reid's first season. That was followed by back-to-back 11-5 marks, with the 2001 campaign concluding in the NFC Championship Game.
"Our defense played great from day one and Andy did a great job of keeping that consistent," Trotter said. "Even when the offense struggled that first year, he kept the team together. A lot of times when you go through a tough season like that, teams have a tendency of breaking down and pointing fingers. But Andy did a great job of keeping that side of the ball, the defense, together. Saying, 'Listen, guys, I'm going to get this situation right on offense.'
"And then (in 1999), they went out and drafted Donovan (McNabb in the first round), and they gradually built that offense around the defense. We just went out and continued to play hard week in and week out. Our mentality was we would have to get at least five, six turnovers to give ourselves a chance to win. And maybe even score. We just stayed positive. Andy stayed positive."
An unrestricted free agent in 2002, Trotter, a Pro Bowl selection in 2001 and '02, was on the move. He stayed in the same division, but switched uniforms and signed with Washington. His time wearing burgundy and gold, however, was relatively and painfully brief. After two seasons, Trotter became a linebacker without a team, and looked in his past to see what may be in his future and called Reid.
"It was humbling because ... I told everybody back then I had a dream that I was playing for the Eagles," said Trotter. "For one, Andy and I never really had a chance to talk about how I left. I felt it wasn't the right way as a man and I told Andy no matter what happened after that moment, I was willing to just let him know how I felt and that I didn't exit the right way.
"Andy's a man about everything. We were able to talk about the situation. Even when I tore my knee up my first year in Washington, Andy called me at home and checked on me. 'Hey, Trott. I'm sorry to hear about your knee. You're a great competitor. You're a big reason why we're successful now.' That did so much for me."
Back with the Eagles for the 2004 season, Trotter made nine starts at middle linebacker and accounted for 80 tackles, including a team-leading 10 behind the line of scrimmage. That helped Philadelphia win the NFC title and earn a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX.
"I think one of the best games I ever played in was that NFC Championship Game against Atlanta," Trotter said. "That was one of the coldest games I ever played in and I'd look in the stands and see Eagles fans with their shirts off. I was like, 'Man, these guys are crazy!'
"You go to the Super Bowl and the crowd wasn't as crazy. Not even close. And I'm not just saying that because we lost (to New England). Even if we had won it would have been a great accomplishment, but for the excitement and just the energy from the game against Atlanta, you can't match that."
Released following the 2006 season, the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker would spend one year with Tampa Bay, but then return to the Eagles for a third time in 2009, after a Training Camp injury sidelined middle linebacker Stewart Bradley.
While spending eight seasons as an Eagle spread over three different occasions is certainly unusual, it was more than fine with Trotter.
"I thank God every day that I spent a majority of my career in Philadelphia," said Trotter. "You talk about a first-class organization; you talk about a fan base that is the greatest in the National Football League ... that's my home.
"The fans, man, I'm talking awesome. I've been in Tampa, I've been in Washington, no disrespect to those guys and their fans, but the Eagles fans are unparalleled. Their passion, literally, when their team loses, those guys go through just like we go through after a loss. When you've had a type of career I had, and you connect with the fans the way I have, you never want to leave. I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity and the privilege to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, and to play in this city."
Trotter and his family make their home in South Jersey. He's still connecting with the fans as a radio analyst.
"I enjoy it and the crew I'm working with," Trotter said. "I enjoy talking football. It's something that I'm very familiar with."
Two years ago, Trotter participated in something he was far from familiar with – acting. Starring in the independent feature film, *The North Star*, he played the role of Benjamin "Big Ben" Jones.
Based on a true story from the mid-1800s, the movie tells the adventures of two slaves, Big Ben and Moses Hopkins (played by Thomas C. Bartley, Jr.) who escape from a Virginia plantation with the instructions to follow the North Star. During their journey to hopefully reach freedom, the courageous men combat against hunger, the weather and the threat of being captured. They would eventually reach Buckingham, Pennsylvania, where they are assisted by townspeople associated with the Underground Railroad.
The film will make its theatrical release at the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia on September 17. It will then be shown in theatres in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, D.C. and Chicago later this fall.
"I'm excited," said Trotter. "The last time they just had a premiere for the main cast. It got a great feedback. They took it to film festivals and got a distributor for it."
Is acting something he would consider doing again?
"Yeah, with the right role, I would definitely," Trotter said. "I had a great time shooting this film. It was different with me being in front of the camera acting. When I was playing football, I'm me. When you're on the big screen, you try to bring out the character of someone else. So it was very interesting trying to tap into those characters every single day. I had to tap into different emotions. And in the really emotional scenes, I had to reach down for feelings I hadn't felt in a long time."