A TORN ACL during training camp that forced Jeremy Maclin to miss the entire 2013 season was nothing compared with the hardships Maclin faced earlier in life.
Growing up in Kirkwood, Miss., in a fatherless household, Maclin increasingly spent time in the home of his youth football coach Jeff Parres and his wife Cindy.
Maclin found himself living full time with the Parres family during his sophomore year of high school and beyond. Today, Maclin has a renewed relationship with his biological mother, Cleo, but growing up, the Parres family provided Maclin with a nurturing environment that fostered his future football achievements.
Maclin overcame the trials of his younger years - and also his ACL injury, with a career-high 980 receiving yards so far this season. Now Maclin is helping children and teenagers do the same through his work with the National Adoption Center, a Philadelphia-based organization founded in 1972 that has helped more than 23,000 kids in foster care find new homes.
Maclin has given tickets to an adopted family for each Eagles home game since the 2012 season and has allowed his guests to come onto the field after games to meet him and some of his Eagles teammates.
"Coming with my background story, though not officially adopted but kind of in the same type of mold, there was just an opportunity for me to give people some chances they normally wouldn't get and come out to the game and meet me and some of the other players that come out of the locker room," Maclin said.
"Obviously, if you want to be successful, you just need a different environment. I had a family willing that I became close to over the years. They accepted me and invited me into their home."
Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center, said the process for choosing which children go to meet Maclin is done by gauging the interest of each family in attending an Eagles game.
"We look at our adopted families and try to see where they have children that we think would enjoy the game," Hochman said. "We put out the word to them and give them a list of dates that the Eagles will be playing at home and tell them that Jeremy Maclin has agreed, really initiated this program.
"We check with the parents, 'Do you think your children would be interested in attending an Eagles game and would they enjoy the experience of meeting Jeremy Maclin?' "
Maclin's guests Sunday during the Eagles' 43-24 win over the Titans were John and Michael Piel, of Hudson County, N.J. John adopted Michael, 18, in 2007 and another son Christopher, also 18, in 2009.
Though Christopher couldn't make the game, Michael, an Eagles fan originally from Camden, and his father each brought a friend to the Linc, and the group of four was able to meet Maclin after the victory. An Eagles diehard from South Jersey obviously meets the criteria of a recent adoptee who would love to see the team play.
"It's really a great thing for the boys to see that people really reach out and do things for kids that are in the foster-care system," John Piel said after the game. "Even though Michael has been adopted, he's spent most of his life in the foster-care system, more than 12 years."
Maclin hopes that a brief escape of a Sunday at the Linc and some interaction with Eagles players can strengthen these children, letting them know that life can get better with their new families.
"I just try to make a difference as much as I can," Maclin said. "These kids know...get my background story before they come and I just kind of let them know, 'Hey, with a little bit of help, you can go a long way.' "