Eagles rookie linebacker JaCoby Stevens calls his grandmother “Big Mama.”
Big Mama is willing to get the Eagles’ logo tattooed on her arm; a bet is a bet, she feels, and this is the team that drafted her grandson in the sixth round from LSU, 224th overall.
Stevens, who hails from Murfreesboro, Tenn., said Wednesday he does not want to see Big Mama go under the needle. He also explained how this situation arose.
“I was at my Big Mama’s house for the summer, I want to say I was like, 5 or 6 years old,” Stevens said during a Zoom interview session, as the team’s draftees and UDFAs gathered for rookie camp. “We were talking, and I said I was gonna play in the NFL. I’m 5 or 6 years old. My Big Mama was like, ‘No you’re not.’ "
Stevens said she wasn’t trying to discourage him. It was just that “as a 5-or-6-year-old, you want to be president, or you want to be a neurosurgeon. Things just change from [one day] to the next. So she just said that I wouldn’t, and she said, ‘You know what? If you become an NFL player I’ll get the team’s logo on my arm.’
“Now it’s time for her to get an Eagle on her arm. She claims she’s still going to get it. We’re going back and forth. I’m telling her that she does not have to get a tattoo. I don’t want my Big Mama to go get a tattoo on her arm. But she claims she’s still going to do it, so we’ll see.”
Stevens added that if his efforts at dissuasion are unsuccessful, “I’ll definitely post it and share it with everybody.”
The tattoo drama will take a backseat at least until rookie camp concludes May 16. Stevens, like the other eight draftees and the UDFAs, has a lot to learn. All drafted Eagles rookies spoke with reporters Wednesday – except for sixth-round defensive tackle Marlon Tuipolotu, who is scheduled to speak Thursday – as they arrived for the camp. They talked of settling in, learning the playbook, “putting names with faces,” as fifth-round running back Kenny Gainwell said. This is their first taste of life as professionals.
Here are some highlights from the interviews:
First-round rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith said he and his former Alabama teammate, Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, “always talked about the possibility of us getting back together, being teammates again. That’s great that it happened. We spoke it into existence ... we’re excited.”
Second-round center/guard Landon Dickerson said he doesn’t have any sort of timetable as he recovers from a December ACL tear, but he has to meet with doctors and trainers here and set up a plan.
Third-round defensive tackle Milton Williams said, “I don’t really take much from that video” from the draft of general manager Howie Roseman and senior football advisor Tom Donahoe openly disagreeing over Roseman’s decision to trade back from 70th to 73rd overall, leaving the Eagles to draft Williams instead of another DT, N.C. State’s Alim McNeill. “I’m here to do a job, and they picked me for a reason,” Williams said.
Fourth-round corner Zech McPhearson, who finished his college career at Texas Tech, said his original plan when he started out at Penn State was to play both football and baseball. “I really didn’t have the time to do it,” he said. “I kind of just put baseball aside and went full-go for football.” He was on a football scholarship, so “I put all my eggs into that basket. ... It was tough giving up baseball. I’ve been doing it my whole life.” McPhearson’s brother Matt was a fourth-round Diamondbacks draftee in 2013 who got as far as Triple A.
Fifth-round running back Kenny Gainwell said he is undeterred by the crowded Eagles running back room, which just added former Lions second-round pick Kerryon Johnson. “What I bring to the table is valuable, so I’m just gonna try to come into work each and every day and do all I can to work hard,” Gainwell said.
Sixth-round edge rusher Tarron Jackson wore No. 9 at Coastal Carolina to honor his older brother Daron; Tarron was 9 when Daron passed away from leukemia, at age 12. The Eagles gave Jackson a limited choice of jersey numbers. He took 75. “Seven plus five is 12. That’s the age that my brother passed. I felt like that’s one of the way I can honor him,” Jackson said.
Stevens, nominally a safety at LSU, said, “I played linebacker at LSU as well. It’s just a position title. If you got back and watch my film at LSU, those are the same things I’m going to try to do here.”
Seventh-round linebacker Patrick Johnson, an edge rusher at Tulane, said he doesn’t have a clear picture yet of his potential duties here, but he is learning the defense from Nick Rallis, who is the linebackers coach. “The coaches most definitely want to use me all over the field,” Johnson said.