For the third time in the last 25 years, the Eagles drafted a safety from Clemson.
The last one – C.J. Gaddis (fifth round, 2007) – didn’t work out very well. Gaddis never played a game for the Eagles or anyone else in the NFL.
The one before that, however, turned out considerably better. Brian Dawkins, the Eagles’ second-round pick in 1996, became one of the best and most popular players to ever play in Philly. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago.
On Saturday, the Eagles took yet another Tigers safety, K’Von Wallace, in the fourth round of the draft. Wallace is very familiar with Dawkins. He roomed with Brian’s son, Brian Jr., his first two years at Clemson.
“We never talked a lot of football,’’ Wallace said of the elder Dawkins. “We just talked about life. Because he’s a man of God first.’’
And one of the league’s best-ever safeties second.
Asked if he tried to model his game after Dawkins, Wallace said, “My game is unique. I feel like I’m a guy who has a different style, a new style of play. I wouldn’t say I model my game after him, but I definitely took bits and pieces of the greats. And he’s definitely one of them.’’
In Wallace, the Eagles are getting an experienced player with a lot of big games on his resume. He played 59 games for the Tigers, tying the school record. He played in seven FBS playoff games, including three championship games. The bright lights of the NFL shouldn’t faze him.
“If you watch me play, man, you know that when the lights are on, I shine,’’ Wallace said. “That’s when I play my best. When the pressure’s on, that’s when you find out who K’Von Wallace is. I’m going to be that guy who is going to go out there and prove myself every single day in practice and on game day.’’
Wallace was a team captain for the Tigers last season. He was a locker-room leader. He played strong safety for defensive coordinator Brent Venables but had multiple responsibilities. He covered slot receivers, played up in the box, and blitzed. He was NFL Network draft analyst Ben Fennell’s top-rated nickel corner.
“You get multiple positions out of me,’’ he said. “I can play corner. I can play safety. I can play up in the box. I can go blitz for you. I can use my abilities to put my team in the best position to go out and win games, win championships.’’
While Clemson failed to win its third straight national championship last season, losing to LSU in the title game, Wallace had his best season.
"My senior year obviously was my best year,'' he said. "It was because of what I did for my body and what I did for my mental and spiritual self. I got heavy into the Word. I got heavy into what I put into my body. Just eating better and living better. Watching more film and doing more work. Just doing more. I think that’s why the Eagles pulled the trigger on me.''
The Eagles have shied away from players with checkered injury histories in this draft. “Hope isn’t a strategy,’’ general manager Howie Roseman said multiple times this offseason with respect to injured players.
But Wallace was as durable as they come at Clemson, as evidenced by the 59 games played.
“The No. 1 thing that speaks out when you talk about all those games I played is durability,’’ Wallace said.
“Obviously, I’ve had some nicks and bruises in my career. But I’m a guy who is going to do everything I can to sacrifice and play. I’m a guy who’s going to go out there and produce and make plays for my team. I’m going to do everything I can to stay fit, stay healthy, and be ready to go.’’
Wallace’s safety/corner versatility gives defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz yet another chess piece that he can move around and disguise coverages.
It’s too early to project his immediate role. Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills figure to be the team’s two starting safeties next season. But there are a lot of things Schwartz can do with Wallace.
“I feel my versatility is one of the main reasons they drafted me,'' Wallace said. "That, and the way I play the game, and the passion and love I have for it. Coming in, I’m going to be a learner. I’m going to be the first to listen and the last to speak.