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Fiery Jim Schwartz is earning players' respect

In May, Jim Schwartz made a PowerPoint presentation to the Eagles defense on civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth.

"I wasn't raised to run."

In May, Jim Schwartz made a PowerPoint presentation to the Eagles defense on civil rights activist Fred Shuttlesworth.

"He told us the day before and I was like, 'OK, this is a joke.' I thought he was just joking," cornerback Eric Rowe said. "But the next day he came with it and he was giving facts, details and pictures."

Most, if not all, of the players had never heard of Shuttlesworth, which was sort of Schwartz's point. Martin Luther King Jr.? Yeah, they all had heard of him. But Shuttlesworth had done as much, if not more, than King during the early stages of the civil rights movement.

"He didn't get a bunch of credit, but he sat on the front lines, too," safety Malcolm Jenkins said of Shuttlesworth. "He had his house bombed, his family threatened, he was beat up many times, but he wouldn't change a thing."

In 1956, 16 sticks of dynamite were set off under Shuttleworth's bedroom window. His home was destroyed, but he escaped unharmed. As the story goes, a police officer who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan suggested he get out of Birmingham, Ala., to which Shuttlesworth replied, "I wasn't raised to run."

He eventually worked side by side with King, but while King was a great orator and more diplomatic, Shuttlesworth spoke bluntly and could be combative. He aggressively pushed King in the fight against segregation and cautioned against "flowery speeches" that weren't backed up by action.

The message of Schwartz's presentation still resonates months later, although some of the players had different interpretations of his intent. Schwartz declined to go into detail, but his Shuttlesworth lecture was clearly meant to be an introduction to the new defensive coordinator's philosophy.

"It was a history lesson, but he was also getting us to understand the mentality he's trying to put in here," said cornerback Ron Brooks, who also played under Schwartz with the Bills. "It's not any different than what he did in Buffalo, but this was new."

The Eagles defense has had an identity crisis since Jim Johnson's death in 2009. The four coordinators who followed failed to fill his shoes for various reasons, but none could match the aggressive mind-set of Johnson's units.

Schwartz's 4-3 scheme is a reflection of his aggressive personality. The 50-year-old coach is, of course, infamous for chasing after Jim Harbaugh when the exuberant ex-49ers coach gave Schwartz an over-the-top postgame handshake.

"That's kind of on my resumé," Schwartz said last week during an interview with WIP-FM. "Aggressiveness."

He doesn't suffer fools. The Eagles communications department had to move the media away from Schwartz in the spring because reporters were tweeting out the coach's expletive-laden remarks to his mistake-prone defenders.

It didn't matter much. Schwartz could still be heard from a distance. Fans who have been invited to training camp have already gotten a glimpse of his intensity. He's pretty much the same guy behind closed doors. Schwartz isn't afraid of calling out players in a group setting, as he systematically did during one brutal meeting this spring.

But there is a softer, more thoughtful side. Schwartz will often take an anecdotal approach to teaching. The stories may be profound or they just may be humorous. And he isn't above awarding players for effort - most recently, with gallons of lemonade from Chick-fil-A.

"There's a lot of different ways to teach," Schwartz said. "There are lessons to be learned from other football players from other teams, from other people, from history. It's all about learning lessons so however you do it, you do it right. There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat."

Jenkins said that he felt compelled to read more about Shuttlesworth after Schwartz's presentation. Defensive end Connor Barwin said what he remembered most about the talk was the quote, "Boys step backward, men step forward."

"It's surprising because he is so intense," Barwin said. "He'll surprise you with this depth that he has, which you don't see on the surface or out here. And then you're like, 'Oh, [shoot].' "

Rowe said he saw parallels between Shuttlesworth and Schwartz.

"He was a hard ass, he was tough, brave, and he would take hits left and right and he never wilted. That just reflects Schwartz's personality," Rowe said. "That's what I think of him, what, after just a couple of months of being around him."

Rowe and the rest of the defense got their first taste of the fire-breathing Schwartz during organized team activities in May. The unit had a poor practice the day before and Schwartz singled out players by pointing his red laser at them.

"He'll point and he'll just circle you," Rowe said. "He would stay on you for like five minutes."

Schwartz mentioned Rowe for his errant coverage on a dig route, but he escaped the wrath of the laser. Others didn't.

"He was keeping it real. He was keeping it real saying we played [terrible] that last day," Rowe said. "And he was pointing out players with his laser. That's the most embarrassing, pride thing - that he pointed you out."

Rowe said he had never experienced that before. Former Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis, Schwartz's predecessor, didn't believe in calling out players in a team setting. Jenkins, for instance, said last season that he preferred the method Schwartz employs.

"It got everybody on their [butts] because the next day we were all flying around, not making those mistakes," Rowe said. "He hasn't done it since then. I think everybody learned their lesson that day."

But Schwartz is often tough to please - and brutally honest. During Thursday's news conference, when asked about linebacker Mychal Kendricks, Schwartz pointed out that the defense was new to the linebacker, "but it's getting toward the end of being new."

Asked about linebacker Jordan Hicks' ability to line up the defensive front, he said, "It's not that complicated, so I don't want to give him any gold stars."

Said Hicks: "If you deserve it, he'll give it to you. And if you don't, he'll tell you. That's him."

Going above and beyond the call of duty is deserving. Schwartz has singled out individuals during film review with an "effort of the day" reward. Typically, defensive linemen have earned the honor for hustling downfield, but cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin and Brooks were recent recipients.

Brooks said he got his gallon of lemonade for chasing receiver Jordan Matthews for about 50 yards on Friday.

"He just makes you want to get out there and try your hardest," Rowe said. "I've never had a coach like him before. This is probably the hardest I've worked ever. He's a lot tougher coach. But once you get his respect, he's got your back."

And he'll never run from a fight.