When Donovan McNabb told his wife and kids he was going to be inducted into the Philly Sports Hall of Fame, there was a slight misunderstanding.
His kids, clearly big thinkers, wanted to know when they would be making the trip to Canton, Ohio.
“My kids thought it was the NFL Hall of Fame,” said McNabb, whose four children are ages 10-15. "They were like ‘Dad, you got in! When are we going to Ohio?’ I was like, ‘Let’s just take it one step at a time.’”
The former Eagles quarterback will be inducted in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Thursday at the Event Center at Rivers Casino Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse), sharing the honor with dozens of great athletes to play in the city where he spent 11 seasons.
While his kids might be asking about the Pro Football Hall of Fame, McNabb has yet to make it to the group of semifinalists. He has said in the past that he “absolutely” belongs in Canton.
“Am I hoping to get the call? Absolutely,” McNabb said. “Do I think about it? Not really. Did I play the game to make it to the Hall of Fame? No. I played it because I loved it. I played it because I’m a competitor and I wanted to show that I’m the best. When your name gets mentioned with the likes of some of these players that have played during my time or before me, it’s still an honor. ... Family and friends are the ones that really get embedded into it. I don’t really waste my time with it, but I still would love to be a part of it and love to get in it if I do.”
But, there is at least one reason McNabb would like the gold jacket.
“How great would it be to be the second African-American quarterback inducted into the football hall of fame?” McNabb said. “Behind one of my idols in Warren Moon. That’s something not a lot of people talk about, but there’s only one black quarterback in the NFL Hall of Fame.”
Some time after he explained the good news to his wife, Raquel, and his kids, McNabb said he reached out to Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, his coach during McNabb’s time in Philadelphia.
McNabb and Reid have stayed close, with the coach sometimes using McNabb as a resource to help him develop reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes.
“It’s still a brotherhood,” McNabb said. “He’s a guy I talk to, I leaned on for information, he reaches out to me about different things he’s seeing obviously with Patrick Mahomes. He reflects on the similarities and the way that he carries himself just like me and he’s a big fan of mine. [Reid would] ask me for ways to coach the young man.”
It’s not uncommon for coaches to reach out to McNabb when trying to get the most out of their quarterbacks, especially with so many former Eagles assistants, like the Bills’ Sean McDermott and Ravens’ John Harbaugh, currently running their own staffs.
“I think it was a torch that was passed on to me,” McNabb said. "It started with Marlin Briscoe and Doug Williams, and James Harris to Steve McNair, and guys who were a little before me. ... Now, you’re seeing a class that watched me while I was in college or watched me while I was in the NFL early on and bought my jersey and acted like they were me during pickup games or whatever.
“You always want to leave a legacy, that’s something that was very important to me,” he added. “Leaving a path for others to continue on. To strive in the path you set for yourself but now others can follow, and you’re starting to see that.”
During McNabb’s 11 years in Philadelphia, the Eagles went to four consecutive NFC championship games and one Super Bowl from 2001-04. McNabb took the team to five total NFC championship games. His record as a starting quarterback was 92-49-1 with the Eagles from 1999 to 2009, and he threw 216 touchdown passes and 100 interceptions over that time. He was traded to Washington in 2010 and to Minnesota in 2011, his final season.
“It means a lot, it’s something that no one can ever take away, the success we had in Philadelphia,” he said. “I can be the old man in the rocking chair when my kids are growing up and grandkids get older, and I can sit back and roll the DVD and -- with us being old -- the VHS."
But, even with the success, McNabb could be a polarizing figure at times during his career. His struggles in the final stage of the playoffs caused some to question him, and he sometimes bristled at that criticism.
Of course, there were fans who booed McNabb and were happy to see him traded.
How has the relationship with Philadelphia fans evolved since his departure?
“There are true fans of mine that are there in Philadelphia or the South Jersey area that really appreciate what I brought to the game, what I did in the community, and the type of person I am,” McNabb said. “Those are the fans that I truly appreciate, but, hey, I appreciate the ones that booed me. Because they were there. If you didn’t like me for whatever reason, you know what, you were there.”