Sometimes, coaches can exaggerate about players they've just drafted. But Andy Reid wasn't kidding when he said defensive end Vinny Curry "might be the biggest Eagles fan ever."
When the second-round pick from Neptune, N.J., met reporters Saturday, he displayed all the emotion, passion, sense of history and pride of the thousands he'll soon play in front of at the Linc. His eyes welled as he talked about meeting Brian Dawkins and Mike Vick. He name-checked Randall Cunningham and Troy Vincent, and insisted that it was Freddie Mitchell who originated the championship belt celebration. He said he wouldn't let cameras into his home on draft night because he didn't want to have to take down his Eagles gear.
"This is my last day, if I would have gone to a different team, being an Eagle fan, so I wouldn't take it down," he said.
Instead, the Brian Westbrook jersey and Eagles gloves and Eagles hats he wore as a kid can remain on the walls. And when he arrived for his first day at the NovaCare Complex, Curry stood in an auditorium as Dawkins retired. Among those on stage, and whom he would soon meet, were Vick, Donovan McNabb and Jeremiah Trotter.
"Most people, the draft is the best day of their life, but growing up an Eagle fan, being blessed with the opportunity of seeing Brian Dawkins retire and give a speech here, this has got to be the best day of my life here," Curry said, eyes gleaming under a flat-brimmed Eagles hat.
He spoke to reporters from the same stage where Dawkins had made his emotional exit hours earlier.
"To see his teammates come back, the way they embraced him, and the way they embraced me was really something special." Curry said. "It's a moment I'll never forget in my life."
Growing up in a Shore area town heavy with Giants fans, Curry couldn't afford Eagles tickets, but would rush home from Pop Warner games to watch on TV.
"The Eagle defense at one point in time was sickening, you know, with Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor, Brian Dawkins right there, Trot, D-line had Big Hugh (Douglas), it was crazy and I just used to picture myself on Sundays - that's going to be me one day," Curry said. "To see everything come through and fall through like this is, it's so mind blowing."
Some thought Curry could go in the first round, but he slid late into the second.
"I was upset that I slid, but like I said, I slid into the greatest situation ever," he said. "It's like it's 100 degrees outside and I slid into the pool."
Curry's enthusiasm, awe and sense of history are rare for a professional athlete. Most players pour their hearts into their teams, but it is also a job and a career with a cold business side attached. A cut or trade or free agent move - and change in allegiance - is always just one front office phone call away. Even the greats spend only their 20's and maybe early 30's with one organization.
The biggest fans, on the other hand, go from childhood to college to marriage to parenthood to old age living with their team. They watch generations of players come and go. Each new season arrives with the context of the accumulated big wins, disappointing losses, stars and busts gone by. Those memories fuel the passionate reactions on Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings.
When it comes to the Eagles, Curry understands all that. He knows the history, knows the names. When the Eagles drafted cornerback Brandon Boykin Saturday, Curry, a smiling live wire, rushed into the media room to join on the conference call.
"I'm so happy for you, bro!" he gushed. He still sounded like a fan.
Earlier Curry met the Eagles who laid the foundation for the playoff runs he watched, including Trotter, McNabb and Dawkins.
"Welcome to the family," they told him. Then Curry met Vick. According to the rookie Vick told him, "you're not a fan no more, you're my teammate."
Curry was near tears as he retold the story.