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For Eagles’ Avonte Maddox, a Detroit homecoming awaits

A homecoming for Avonte Maddox is also a chance for him to connect with those who helped motivate and guide him on his path as a pro player for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Avonte Maddox (29) speaks with reporters before Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, October 28, 2021. The Eagles face the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Avonte Maddox (29) speaks with reporters before Philadelphia Eagles practice at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia, Pa. on Thursday, October 28, 2021. The Eagles face the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

Most Eagles fans are familiar with the dynamic between tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Avonte Maddox. The teammates quickly forged a tight-knit bond after they were drafted by the team in 2018, and it wasn’t long before they became roommates.

The Goedert-Maddox household has become quite the hit. They’ve scored partnership deals with Wawa and have filmed commercials from their house in South Jersey.

But both players agree their relationship wouldn’t be as strong as it is without their third roommate – Maddox’s “godbrother,” Jalen Embry.

It was Embry who persuaded Maddox at age 16 to play football, when he offered him a proposition upon moving in with Maddox and his uncle.

“If I play baseball with you, you have to play football with me,” Embry told Maddox then.

In two quick years, Maddox transformed into a stud receiver and defensive back at King High School in Detroit. Along the way, he garnered multiple college offers before he committed to the University of Pittsburgh.

Said King High School coach Tyrone Spencer: “I think Jalen definitely helped Avonte come out on the football field.”

Embry and Maddox were King’s one-two offensive punch. Maddox loved running screen routes, while Embry enjoyed running go balls and opening up the field. On the diamond, Maddox played shortstop and was the leadoff hitter.

“Whenever the ball was in his hands, it was just like magic,” Embry recalled. “He wasn’t average and everybody knew it. Once coaches started coming in, that’s when we realized we were about to go to college on scholarship. That made us more hungry and more humble.”

After they graduated from King, Maddox played four seasons at Pitt. However, Embry had quite the journey throughout his college career. He first attended Iowa before transferring to Iowa Central and then Northern Illinois. Maddox was selected in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft, while Embry went undrafted and signed with the Texans.

Unfortunately for Embry, his stint with the Texans was short-lived and he was cut before the beginning of the regular season. At that moment, he picked up his phone and dialed Maddox’s number.

“Jalen wanted to move back in with me while he trained,” Maddox said. “It was all love. That’s my brother for life.”

So Embry packed his bags and left for the Philadelphia area, where he joined the renowned Goedert-Maddox household. Over the last four years, Embry has had multiple stints with professional football teams, but he’s still waiting for another shot at the NFL. In the meantime, he serves as the behind-the-scenes piece to a busy household.

“We’re brothers through and through,” Embry said. “I’m always making sure he gets in his hours watching film. That’s literally all we do when he’s not at the facility. At this point of his career, what separates him is how he digests film.”

When Maddox steps onto the turf at Ford Field this weekend, it will be a long-awaited homecoming for the Detroit native. Maddox bought 50-plus tickets, which he plans to distribute to his family, former coaches, and the King High School football team. Back at King, Spencer has a large framed portrait of Maddox, which is inside his classroom and serves as inspiration for the next generation.

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“It’s a blessing to be coming home,” Maddox said. “Not many people make it out of Detroit, so I want the kids to see they can really make it out of there.”

In the final year of his rookie contract, Maddox is doing his best to focus on the present. He also can’t control whether or not he’ll continue living with Goedert, who’s also due for an extension. Through seven games, Maddox has played comfortably from the slot cornerback position. He’s tied with fellow cornerback Steve Nelson for most passes defensed.

“I just think he’s scrappy and tough,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said of Maddox this week. “That’s such a requirement for the good slot nickels I’ve been around. They’re scrappy. They’re tough. That’s definitely Avonte.

“Then you always have to have good quickness in there because you go against different guys that are quick, particularly in the slot. You’ve got that short area quickness. I definitely see that in him.

Sirianni concluded: “I’m glad he’s our slot corner because he does a really good job at it. I see him getting better all the time. That toughness is just something that you’ve got to have on your team, and he definitely embodies that at that position.”