Miles Sanders walked to his locker missing one jersey and carrying another.
The last midnight green uniform of his rookie season is making its way back to Seattle. In exchange, he will have a Bobby Wagner jersey to hang up on his wall.
The first year of Sanders’ career came to an end Sunday after the Eagles fell to the Seattle Seahawks, 17-9, in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs at Lincoln Financial Field. The second-round pick out of Penn State battled through an ankle injury and finished with 69 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Sanders said he caught the attention of Wagner, a five-time All-Pro linebacker still in his prime, during the two teams’ regular-season game in November. Wagner sought him out after that game, gave Sanders a compliment, and Sanders arranged for the jersey swap on Sunday.
“He told me last time we played that he’s got much respect for me and loved watching me play,” Sanders said. “I knew I had to get that jersey. Definitely a great feeling, getting a jersey from the best linebacker in the NFL. I look forward to playing against him a lot [in the future.]”
Sanders led the team in rushing and yards per carry, but his night wasn’t perfect. On a fourth-down play midway through the fourth quarter with his team down eight points, Sanders wasn’t able to reel in a pass from Josh McCown that would have gotten a first down and kept the offense on the field.
The throw was behind Sanders, but it was a catchable pass in a pivotal moment.
“I have to execute that. It don’t matter how the ball came,” Sanders said. “It hit my hands, so I have to catch it.”
Sanders was limited in practice for most of last week after suffering an ankle injury against the Giants in the regular-season finale. On Sunday, he limped to the locker room at the end of the first half after getting attention from trainers.
“I tweaked a lot of things, man," Sanders said when asked what he hurt. “I stayed out there. I couldn’t let my boys go out like that. I owed them, at least, just to fight until the end. I’m going to do my best this offseason to get right and come back healthier on a personal level."
All in all, Sanders was one of the bright spots in an Eagles offense devastated by injuries during the second half of the season. He finished the year leading all rookies in yards from scrimmage with 1,327. He’s a finalist for the offensive rookie of the year award, and will almost surely be the Eagles’ lead running back going into next season.
He’s earned the respect of many, including Wagner, which means more jersey swaps in the future. Until then, Wagner’s is one of the best he’s gotten so far.