Eagles fans have more to remember Connor Barwin by than those old No. 98 jerseys hanging in closets. There is Ralph Brooks Park in Point Breeze, revitalized through Barwin's Make the World a Better Place Foundation, and Smith Playground in South Philly. Waterloo Playground in West Kensington is the current project, in progress.
It's hard to name an athlete who made a bigger off-the-field impact here, while playing just four seasons, 2013-2016.
Thursday night in East Rutherford, N.J., Barwin, now No. 53 for the New York Giants, after a year in Los Angeles with the Rams, will be trying to get around Lane Johnson and sack another former teammate, Carson Wentz. In the offseason, though, Fishtown is Barwin's home, and Philadelphia is where he intends to live when his career ends.
In fact, Barwin was in town less than a month ago, when Yards Brewery unveiled plans for its new Make the World Better beer, to promote Barwin's foundation.
"There's obviously no substitute for being there. But I was able to build a strong team when I was in Philly," Barwin said this week on a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters, when asked about keeping civic efforts going despite playing elsewhere. "We've got a great staff. … I'm only an hour and a half up the road, so I get back pretty frequently, and all the stuff that we started working on in Philly, with regard to the MTWB Foundation, is going great."
On Twitter earlier this week, Barwin noted the deadline for registering to vote in Pennsylvania, for the Nov. 6 election. Probably not that many of his Giants teammates were thinking along those lines.
There is one minor detail Barwin wants to take care of before settling into his adopted hometown for good, however, with his wife and now-4-month-old son. When he joined the Giants, as training camp was starting, Barwin said his motivation for continuing was to win a Super Bowl before he retires. He mentioned it again in this week's conference call.
It was nobody's fault, really, but last February was a bit of a twist of the knife in the gut of a guy who put so much into the city and the Eagles organization, yet wasn't an Eagle when the long quest ended.
Barwin said he followed the Super Bowl parade on Twitter. For such a recognizable figure, showing up along the route or at the Art Museum probably would have been awkward.
Was it tough, seeing his old team hoist the Lombardi Trophy without him?
"I mean, yeah, of course, for a little bit," Barwin said. "You'd love to be a part of it. But after you get over yourself quickly, you realize how happy you are for especially my friends – [center Jason] Kelce, [quarterback Nick] Foles, all those guys, everyone on the team, just happy for them, because I know how hard it is to get a Super Bowl, so I'm happy for any guy I know that gets one, and then obviously just happy for the city, because I know what it meant to the city."
Was he surprised by Kelce's historic rant, delivered in an Avalon String Band Leprechaun outfit?
"No, not at all," Barwin said. "Kelce's an emotional guy, and he did the parade right. Obviously the Mummers thing was perfect, and he spoke from the heart. … There was a lot of truth to it."
There was talk this offseason that Barwin might return to the Eagles, around the time that Chris Long was contemplating retirement, but a deal never materialized. It's hard to envision Barwin fulfilling his Super Bowl dream this season with the 1-4 Giants, who played probably their best game of the season Sunday at Carolina and still lost, 33-31, on a last-second, 63-yard field goal.
Like the 2-3 Eagles, the Giants enter Thursday's game in save-the-season mode. Olivier Vernon, the linebacker in their 3-4 defense who was supposed to start ahead of Barwin this season, is finally healthy, after missing the first five games because of a high ankle sprain.
Barwin, fighting a knee injury himself, estimated that Vernon's return might cut his snap count down to 15 or 20 Thursday night. He has one sack this season, last weekend against Cam Newton.
In his 10th NFL season, with his 32nd birthday on tap Monday, the clock is ticking on Barwin's career. He said he is taking it "year by year, but if I get to 12, I'm done."
The Giants' defense ranks 12th in yards allowed, at 353.8 (the Eagles are 10th, 343.2), 19th in points per game allowed, at 25.6 (the Eagles are seventh at 20.8). Barwin's sack last Sunday was only the Giants' sixth of the season.
The Giants do have weapons, however, that the Eagles can't match in wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie running back Saquon Barkley, from Penn State. One of the perks of bouncing around these last few years is that Barwin has played with LeSean McCoy in Philly, Todd Gurley in L.A., and now Barkley.
"All three are great runners, all three will make you miss, all three are big enough to run through you, but the real challenge is them as receivers … You set them up on linebackers in the pass game, and it can really be a mismatch," Barwin said. "Their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and line up as receivers is really what makes them so good."
Obviously, the way the Eagles have played this season has only given hope to struggling divisional opponents, such as the Giants. Barkley, the rookie, spoke on that subject Tuesday.
"We're a game behind in the division, and I know I haven't been in the NFL for a long time, but I think if you win your division, you automatically go into the playoffs," Barkley said. "Everything that we want in our season is still there."
When Barwin signed with the Giants, he told reporters he was "happy to be back in the best division in football." Five games in, that looks like quite a stretch. This week, when talking about the NFC East, Barwin called it "the most competitive division," which might be a lot closer to the truth.