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Les Bowen: Eagles’ Chaney speaks well of Cox, former college teammate

As a defensive lineman drafted by a front office that has guessed wrong on several of those, Fletcher Cox will face some pressure.

"I think he'll handle it well," Jamar Chaney said about Fletcher Cox facing pressure. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
"I think he'll handle it well," Jamar Chaney said about Fletcher Cox facing pressure. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)Read more

As a defensive lineman drafted by a front office that has guessed wrong on several of those, Fletcher Cox will face some pressure.

As the Eagles' highest pick in the first round of the NFL draft since Corey Simon (sixth overall) in 2000, Fletcher Cox will face some pressure.

As the team's top pick in the year that Eagles coach Andy Reid supposedly has to win or be gone, Fletcher Cox will face some pressure.

Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney, who helped recruit Cox to Mississippi State, shrugged when asked about that Friday.

"I think he'll handle it well," Chaney said. The Eagles traded up from 15th in the first round to 12th on Thursday night, drafting the defensive tackle some experts considered the best defensive prospect in the draft. "If he's able to stay healthy, he's going to be a great, Pro Bowl player. I'm pretty sure of that."

Cox made his first trip to Philadelphia on Friday. Listed at 6-4, 296, he almost seemed too big for the NovaCare stage.

Reid stood next to Cox and held up the green jersey with the No. 1 on it, just as Reid did with Simon, with Jerome McDougle (2003), with Mike Patterson (2005), Brodrick Bunkley (2006), Trevor Laws (2008, second round) and Brandon Graham (2010).

"When you talk to anybody that knows him - and we've got an inside source who's as close to him as anybody, Jamar - I think character is the No. 1 thing that comes up. And hard work. Even though he's young [21 last December] he's mature. He's a smart, smart guy academically. That's kind of the formula that we like here," Reid said.

Cox, who gamely battled stomach flu through a battery of interviews Friday afternoon and evening, said he began his athletic career as a youth baseball first baseman in Yazoo City, Miss., about 90 minutes southwest of Starkville and Mississippi State. His mother didn't let him play football until eighth grade, he said, whereupon he told her, "Mom, I think I can be real good at this one day."

He was, good enough to excite offers from all over the Southeastern Conference, but Cox decided to stick near home and play for the relatively unsung Bulldogs. Chaney recalled that Cox's signing was a huge coup.

"I had a comfort zone with them and with my family, that it could be my home away from home. It was not only just with the football players, but with the fans and the students," Cox said.

Chaney has at least two good Cox stories, even though they were college teammates for only 1 year. (They've spoken on the phone and texted at least once a week since Chaney left for the NFL, he said.)

That one season, Chaney's senior year, he remembers a game against Houston, the Bulldogs running an all-out blitz that the Cougars beat with a wide receiver screen. The fleet wideout ran a long way, Chaney said, but he didn't run all the way. "[Cox] caught the dude 50 yards downfield," Chaney recalled.

The other story is from after the season, when Chaney was making the rounds of NFL teams, preparing for the 2010 draft, in which he was an Eagles seventh-round selection.

"I was visiting the Patriots, and they were having me break down some film of our [Mississippi State] defense," Chaney recalled. "As we were watching, they stopped me and asked, 'Who is No. 94?' I said, 'That's Fletcher Cox. He's a true freshman.' "

Cox said he decided after the 2011 season to declare for the draft as a junior, even though the NFL's Draft Advisory Board told him he could expect to be taken in the second round. He said that only motivated him to show he could be a first-round pick, in a deep draft at d-tackle.

But when it came to Thursday night in Radio City Music Hall, even though recent draft projections showed Cox going in the top six or eight overall, he tried not to get ahead of himself.

"I went in expecting the unexpected," Cox said. "I talked to my agent [Todd France], he said there was going to be a lot of trading down, people trading up, he told me not to get caught up in it. I just sat back and let things happen . . . I told him 'We'll just wait till the phone rings and go from there.' "

Just before the Eagles traded up with Seattle for the 12th pick, spending fourth- and sixth-round selections, Kansas City used the 11th overall selection on another defensive tackle, erratic Memphis behemoth Dontari Poe.

"I wasn't surprised, I applaud him," Cox said of Poe. "Kansas City needed a nose tackle. I'm not a nose tackle."

He definitely wasn't surprised when he heard the Eagles had traded up; his visit with defensive line coach Jim Washburn in Starkville had been memorable, and Cox came into the evening hoping they would draft him, trying not to get too caught up in that, since he couldn't control it.

"I was just blessed enough to come where I wanted to come," Cox said.

Reid was asked what he told Cox about playing in Philadelphia.

"Our fans are right on," said Reid, who seems to have finally drafted a guy much of the fan base was hoping he'd draft. "If we're stinking the place up, they're going to let us know, and if we're doing great, they're going to let us know. Most of all, they show up, support, and want us to be good. This is just another piece of the puzzle that is going to allow us to be a great football team."

Contact Les Bowen at Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at