Not only was Brian Dawkins an All-Pro free safety for the Eagles, but little did he know he was a recruiter for them, as well.
While at Boise State, Quintin Mikell watched Philadelphia's games on television and became a fan of Dawkins. Because of that, and the lack of depth at both safety positions, he felt that the Eagles offered the best opportunity to make a team as a free agent when he wasn't chosen in the 2003 NFL Draft.
"I didn't come with the mindset of, all right, I'm going to beat out these guys," Mikell says. "I came with the mindset of, at the very least, learn as much as I could from them. Learn as much as I could about the system by watching them, and then just see what happens after that."
Mikell earned a spot on the roster and was a standout contributor on special teams as well as a key backup at safety early in his career. He was on the field in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
"Everyone's a little bit different," Mikell says. "There are some guys that come in who are ready to play right away and there are some guys that it takes a year or two. I feel like I had the ability, but the other aspects of the game, I didn't have yet. What I struggled at was playing deep middle, playing deep halves, because I didn't do a whole lot of that in college. So, it took me a while to really get ready."
After leading the Eagles' special teams in tackles for two consecutive seasons and helping them reach Super Bowl XXXIX, Mikell started five games in 2007 at free safety in place of Dawkins and six games at strong safety for Sean Considine due to injuries. Mikell led all Eagles defensive backs that season with 98 tackles.
Becoming the starting strong safety the following year, Mikell led the Eagles with a career-high 169 tackles to go along with three interceptions, nine passes defensed, two sacks, and four forced fumbles. The Associated Press named him a second-team All-Pro.
During his eight seasons with Philadelphia from 2003-10, Mikell led the team in tackles three seasons and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl following the 2009 campaign. He concluded his career after three more seasons with the then-St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers.
"I felt like I was a guy that took every opportunity that was given and I made something of it," says Mikell. "I was a guy that didn't get a lot of pub and lack of a better word, respect, not getting drafted and all that stuff. I did it the hard way and ended up making the team, becoming a starter, being a special teams MVP, which I'm very proud of, making it to the Pro Bowl, and making it to the Super Bowl.
"I felt like coming from the bottom, I was able to do a lot of things that many people wished that they could do in the NFL. I've been truly blessed. That's something I'm very proud of. I think I made the right decision signing with the Eagles."
Mikell will be the Honorary Alumni Captain presented by Santander when Philadelphia hosts the New York Giants this afternoon.
"It's a huge honor to be asked to be the honorary captain," Mikell says. "Being myself and the kind of low-key person I am, and the way I came up through the ranks and stuff, I wasn't expecting it. I truly appreciate it and I feel appreciated for my time here."
Is being asked even more special because it's a game against a division rival?
"Oh, absolutely. That was the first thing that popped up into my mind, the Giants," Mikell said with a laugh. "I couldn't have asked for a better team to be honorary captain against. It's well-documented that I can't stand the Giants. They're my most-hated team. Even more so than Dallas. So, I'm glad that it's against this team."
Now living in South Jersey, Mikell and his wife, Cherie, have two sons: Trey (Quintin III), 11, and Champ (DeAndre), 9; and two daughters: Mila, 7, and Niyah, 2. Mikell was back on the sidelines this year coaching Champ's team, the Pioneers, in the Clearview Youth Football League.
"It's been a fun experience just being around the kids and being around the game. My season wasn't perfect. We didn't win a game, but I made sure I made it fun for the kids," Mikell says. "We had a good time and hopefully they'll keep coming back. That's really what it's about at that age, teaching the game and make sure they keep coming back."
Mikell is also helping his wife out at her cryotherapy spa called Orange Cryo Wellness in Voorhees, New Jersey.
Cryotherapy is defined as the use of extremely low temperatures to treat symptoms such as tissue damage, decrease inflammation, increase cell rejuvenation, improve skin tone, and reduce signs of aging.
"She's doing really well. She's enjoying business and being a part of that world," Mikell says. "It's really cool. A lot of athletes are starting to do it. You stand in (a chamber) for about three minutes and it gets really, really cold. It takes all the inflammation out of your body. It takes the place of sitting in an ice bath for 20 minutes and it has much better results."