Yeah, OK, sometimes strategy just doesn't work out. For instance, in 1996 the Eagles planned to have their first-round draft choice, Jermane Mayberry, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound Division II All-America at Texas A&M-Kingsville, step right into the starting lineup at left offensive tackle. However, that plan was shelved during the preseason when a bout with pneumonia sidelined the rookie.
"It was pretty hard to go through," said Mayberry, who didn't see his first game action until midway through the season when he played on special teams. "And it was really humbling from a standpoint of you go to college and you have success and you just assume that success is going to continue and when it doesn't ..."
Mayberry was the team's only offensive lineman to play every snap in 1997, as he started every game at left tackle that season. However, he was shifted to an unfamiliar position the following season when he lined up at left guard. It was not a move he was initially comfortable with.
"I had never played guard," Mayberry said. "Everything happens a little faster inside, so it took a little while to get used to it. But I was willing to do whatever they asked of me. I tried to make the best of it."
|OG Jermane Mayberry takes out defender to help QB Donovan McNabb
He and the team made strides in 2000 as Mayberry found a home at right guard on a line that started every game in the same combination. The Eagles went 11-5, posting their first winning season in four years.
"I think, one, we caught people by surprise," said Mayberry. "And then, two, it was our second year under (head coach) Andy (Reid), so we just kind of got his system down. He kind of got us going in the right direction."
Indeed. Two seasons later, Mayberry's play was recognized with a trip to Hawaii as he was named as a starter in the Pro Bowl. He was also honored by The Associated Press, Sports Illustrated, College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and Football Digest by being placed on each of their All-Pro teams.
"To me it was huge. It kind of validated my pick," Mayberry said. "I think considering everything myself and my family went through — even (offensive line coach) Juan (Castillo, who had also been his college coach), because he cared so much for me — it was a nice way just to be recognized for the accomplishments and things I had done over my career.
"There was a big group of us (including tackles Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, marking the first time the Eagles had three offensive linemen in the Pro Bowl together) that went that year. The team was doing well, so I think that's what made it really nice, that a bunch of us got to go together."
The "bunch" would get together again after the 2004 season. Only this time they were the NFC champions and heading to Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla. And despite losing to New England, 24-21, it was a game that Mayberry cherishes.
"That night playing in the game, it felt like being a kid again," Mayberry said. "I mean, it felt like just being in the backyard it was so much fun. With all of the hype that came with the game and all of the excitement, it was pure fun. It was probably the most fun I had, even though we lost, in a game."
The Super Bowl marked Mayberry's final game with the Eagles, ending a nine-year career in Philadelphia.
Looking back, however, Mayberry believes the proudest moments of his career occurred away from the football field — in school parking lots around Philadelphia.
"I think the most important thing and the thing I'm most proud of is my work with the Eagles Eye Mobile," Mayberry said.
The idea of the Eagles Eye Mobile was born shortly after Mayberry, who suffered from an underdeveloped optic nerve in his left eye, was drafted in 1996. During a meeting with his agent, Jack Bechta, Eagles President Joe Banner and Sarah Martinez-Helfman, the executive director of the then-newly established Eagles Youth Partnership, Mayberry mentioned that he'd like to do something to help area children get their eyes checked.
"Sarah took it and ran with it. She made it really easy for me to be a part of it," Mayberry said. "She's the driving force behind it and has done a phenomenal job."
Though Mayberry has moved on, the Eagles Eye Mobile has continued its mission throughout the Philadelphia area.
"I'm really glad that they did keep it going because it's such a great program," said Mayberry, whose picture is featured on the back of the vehicle. "And I say this with not any kind of false humility, but I think you could put anybody's name on the bus. It's the Eagles that drive it and it's what the Eagles mean to that community. That's really what makes the Eye Mobile go, the city's passion for the Eagles."
Now in its 14th year, the Eagles Eye Mobile has provided comprehensive eye exams for more than 26,000 children in area public schools. And at no cost to the families, 70 to 80 percent of those examined needed and received prescription eyeglasses through the program. In addition, 11 to 17 percent were referred to pediatric ophthalmologists for further eye treatment.
"After Jermane's first year with the team, he predicted that this would probably be the most important thing he would ever do in the NFL," Martinez-Helfman said. "And he went on to play in a Pro Bowl, had two contracts with the Eagles and another with the (New Orleans) Saints, an 11-year career, and now in retrospect, he sees this and says it's the most important thing he did in the NFL. I think he's right.
"He's not only touched the lives of more than 26,000 kids, but he's transformed the lives of many of them. There are kids now in the city that would have been held back in kindergarten or first grade when all they really needed was a pair of glasses. There were kids in special needs classrooms where all they needed was an eye exam and a pair of glasses. And there are kids who have had vision-saving surgery because Jermane stepped up when he was 22 years old to make a difference. It's been so transformative for thousands of kids and for Jermane and for all of us here at Eagles Youth Partnership. The Eye Mobile is Jermane's legacy in Philadelphia."
Mayberry makes his home in suburban Austin, Texas, with his wife, Danielle, and son, Jay.