Following three seasons with Chicago and one with Denver, free agent defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis was looking for a fresh start in 2000. He found it in Philadelphia.
"Denver offered to bring me back and I also visited the Arizona Cardinals," Grasmanis says. "But I think with Andy Reid being there and I met with (Defensive Line Coach) Tommy Brasher and I knew (Linebackers) Coach (Ron) Rivera, as well, so I loved the coaching staff and the youthfulness of the team. When you go visit certain places, they just have a certain vibe to them. And when I visited Philly, it just had a vibe to it that this was going to be something special.
"They told me that I would be competing for a lot of playing time and maybe even becoming a starter. So that was it for me. If I knew that I could come in and could play and contribute, that's all I could ask for."
Starting in Grasmanis' second season with the Eagles, the team went 48-16 (.750 win percentage) in the regular season from 2001-04. The Eagles reached won the NFC East and reached the NFC Championship Game each year. In 2004, the Eagles played in Super Bowl XXXIX. What was the key to their success?
"Honestly, I think the camaraderie," Grasmanis says. "When you can get the players to buy in and believe in themselves and believe in what your building, I think that was a big part of it. And we bought into it. We were very close. It didn't matter if you were a defensive lineman or a receiver or what have you, we just had a lot of cohesiveness."
Unfortunately for the Eagles and their fans, each of those four seasons ended with a loss.
"We were right on the cusp so many times. I think it was just a matter of going out there and doing it. It sounds simple and I know it's not," Grasmanis says. "Obviously, we failed, but I wouldn't pinpoint it on any one thing. I mean, we made it to the championship game, it was just a matter of doing it and getting over that hump."
Grasmanis had a hump of his own to get over. It began in the second game of the 2003 season against New England, when he tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg and was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve two days later.
In 2004, he suffered an Achilles and a knee injury during the preseason and was inactive for the first 12 games and the playoffs. The following year, he tore the Achilles tendon in his right leg and played in two games during his 10th and final season. Through it all, how was he able to keep a positive attitude?
"It was certainly difficult. I'd just got married at the time, in 2003, and I just think a combination of having a wife (Kerry) with me and the friendships in that locker room," Grasmanis says. "Guys that I was close to, Corey Simon and Brian Dawkins, those guys helped get me through it. And not just that, but I recall that time, Derrick Burgess got hurt, and then Dawk got hurt, as well. And so here we were, a bunch of guys dealing with foot or ankle injuries. So we were going through the same thing, and we would lean on one another."
Even though Grasmanis wasn't able to contribute on the field the last three seasons he spent with the Eagles as much as he had the first three seasons when he totaled 104 tackles, 63 solo, and 9.5 sacks, he did supply immeasurable support in the locker room and on the sideline.
"Even to this day, I'm a relational guy," Grasmanis says. "I love to just be in relationships with people and talking. I would come in and do my rehabilitation in the morning, but I would stick around and hang out with the guys. I'd eat lunch with them, and play the video games with them. Not only were they my teammates, but they were my friends.
"Winning the NFC Championship Game (in 2004) and getting over that hump, and going to the Super Bowl, when I look back at Philly, I go back to the camaraderie that was in that locker room, where everybody just got along. It was just a unique and awesome atmosphere."
Grasmanis announced his retirement in May 2006. Grasmanis is "super proud" to have played at the highest level for a decade.
"I was a fourth-round draft pick, and was never a full-time starter anywhere. Just being a reserve, a backup, but a backup who got a lot of playing time. I was really proud of that. I was proud to be a locker room guy, as well. Where I was a friend to everybody," Grasmanis says.
"Making it 10 years was a goal of mine. And to say that I did that, I'm super proud of that. And I would add the hard work. I was always in there and putting in the work that needed to be done. And the ability to play through a lot of injuries, as well."
Eleven years ago, Grasmanis embarked on a second career in the food industry. He's now the Vice President of Sales for Ron Son Foods.
"It is a food importing company, and so we import a variety of different products from around the world," Grasmanis says. "It's family-owned, and there's just a lot of flexibility in the schedule. And I get to use my people skills. I enjoy being in front of people and talking, and not necessarily even selling products, but selling myself."
Making his home in Franklin, Tennessee, Grasmanis and his wife, Kerry, have a daughter, Lani, and a son, River. For the past eight years, he has been back on the gridiron as the defensive line coach at Grace Christian Academy in Franklin.