The 2007 Eagles were unremarkable – they ended the season with an 8-8 record and didn’t make the playoffs. But the father of Jalen Reagor, this year’s Eagles first-round draft pick, has one cherished, vivid memory from the year he backed up starting defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley.
Montae Reagor’s favorite moment came in the season-opening loss at Green Bay, which most fans recall as the day Andy Reid discovered that you can’t count on punt returners who have never returned punts in games. The Packers’ only touchdown in their 16-13 victory came on a punt muffed by Eagles wide receiver Greg Lewis, and their game-winning field goal was set up by the same thing — kickoff returner J.R. Reed unsuccessfully trying to fair-catch a short punt. The Eagles had spent the preseason preparing former Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom to be their punt returner, only to cut him.
Those events are seared into the memories of many Eagles fans, but this one is not: Just before halftime, Montae Reagor sacked Brett Favre, in Reagor’s first game after he was seriously injured in a car crash on Oct. 22, 2006.
“The day I will never forget,” as Reagor calls it.
Reagor was a starter on the Indianapolis Colts’ defensive line, driving to a home game against Washington, when his Chevy Tahoe was sideswiped and flipped three times. Reagor needed 35 stitches to his head and surgery to his left orbital bone. He missed the rest of the 2006 season, including the Colts’ victory over Chicago in Super Bowl XLI.
When Reagor signed with the Eagles in free agency the next March, he came to the press conference with his left eye socket still badly swollen, the eye barely a slit. He said last week that he was cleared to play just before the season. Pulling down Favre for a 9-yard loss that kept the Packers from kicking a field goal just before the half was the culmination of a long struggle.
“They didn’t think I would ever walk again, didn’t think I would ever see,” Reagor said. “To be able to come back and play the game I love, by the grace of God, and just hard work, extreme work, daily, it allowed me to come back and play the game. It took a lot out of me. I can say, if I hadn’t had that injury, I would have played at least four or five more years.”
Reagor said there is a photo he looks at online, in which he is wearing his No. 94 Eagles uniform and pointing at the sky after taking down Favre. It was the 17th and final sack of his career.
“After I sacked him, he told me, ‘Glad to see you back. I hate that your first sack after you’re back had to be me. But glad you’re back healthy,’ ” Reagor said.
When wide receiver Jalen Reagor spoke with reporters after the Eagles selected him 21st overall on April 23, he said he didn’t have any clear memories of his dad’s time in Philadelphia; his sharpest recollections of his father’s career are from that Colts-Bears Super Bowl, even though Montae didn’t play.
Montae Reagor said that he rented an apartment for his time in Philly, and his family stayed in Texas. Jalen, then 7, would only have come in on weekends for games here and there. Montae was the team’s Ed Block Courage Award winner that year, for his comeback from the accident.
Montae suffered a knee injury in training camp at Lehigh in 2008 and was released in the final cutdown, ending his nine-year NFL career, which began as a second-round pick of the Broncos in 1999.
“That [knee injury] kind of sent me on my way,” said Reagor, who came back in 2011 as a summer coaching intern, and said he still holds the Eagles organization in high regard. “They didn’t have to take a chance on me, and they did.”
Until the Eagles selected Jalen, this hadn’t been the spring the Reagors envisioned. Jalen Reagor had to rely on a “virtual pro day” to mitigate the disappointing 4.47-second 40 he posted at the NFL scouting combine, and the family had to scrap plans to travel to Las Vegas for the draft extravaganza that was canceled because of the pandemic.
Plus, Montae was indicted in February, charged with submitting more than $80,000 in fraudulent health-care claims to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Plan. A few months earlier, 10 other ex-players were charged, including running back Correll Buckhalter, Reagor’s teammate on the 2007 Eagles.
Reagor said his lawyer has asked him not to comment on the case. A source close to the situation said Reagor maintains his innocence and says he has receipts for the charges in question.
Reagor said the Eagles are a great fit for his son. The new wide receivers coach is Aaron Moorehead, his teammate on the Colts’ Super Bowl squad, who tried to recruit Jalen to Texas A&M when Moorehead worked there. In his post-draft news conference, Jalen referred to Moorehead as “coach A-Mo.”
As a player, Moorehead “was always eager to learn, always did the extra thing. Always stayed late after practice,” Montae said. “He didn’t have all the athletic ability, so he had to work on the little things that would keep him around, and he learned from some of the best in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.”
They spoke after the Eagles drafted Jalen. Moorehead is the son of Emery Moorehead, tight end on the Super Bowl Shuffle ’85 Bears, so he might have extra insight into father-son NFL dynamics.
“He told me, ‘Hey, man -- I’m gonna take care of your son, but I’m gonna coach him hard and do what I need to do to make him the best player he can be,’ ” Montae Reagor said. "I told him, ‘You have the green light, man, you do what you need to do.’ ”
In an interview posted on the Eagles website, Moorehead recalled trying to persuade Jalen Reagor to sign with the Aggies. He said as the draft grew near, he became “excited that the possibility might be there” for them to reunite. He said Jalen is “an explosive guy” with “those physical freaky traits.”
Moorehead said Jalen gets separation coming in and out of breaks and is strong enough to fight through contact.
‘Things you just can’t teach’
Montae Reagor said he started to think his son had a real future in the sport during his junior year in high school, when he saw Jalen do “things you just can’t teach.”
Jalen committed to Texas Tech, his dad’s alma mater, but grew to think he wouldn’t be comfortable there. Montae Reagor recalled Jalen saying, “If I go there, I’m always just going to be Montae Reagor’s son.”
He said he told Jalen, “Go where you want to go to school. Daddy’s going to support you 100 percent no matter where you go.”
Jalen then committed to Oklahoma before settling on TCU, where an uninspiring quarterback situation, including a freshman starter in 2019, “didn’t do him justice,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said after the draft.
“I think it was the best situation for him,” Montae Reagor said. “You got to see him grow. Yeah, he coulda been surrounded by a lot more talent [elsewhere], but I think sometimes when you’re at the top, and you’re the alpha male, it allows you to be such a leader, it allows you to mature in so many other areas that will help you in life. … He made the best of it, and he made things happen when he did touch the football.”