Jeremiah Trotter


Eagles All-Pro linebacker

Jeremiah Trotter was very much an unknown when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1998. The Eagles selected the 6-1, 260-pound linebacker in the third round of the NFL draft but he played his college football at Stephen F. Austin, a Division 1-AA school, so only the hard core draftniks knew his story. Trotter did not even play football in junior high school. One of eight children growing up in Hooks, Texas, Trotter worked with his father Myra chopping wood. When the other kids were heading off to football practice, Trotter was picking up his axe and going off to work. His father finally relented and allowed him to play in 10th grade but only with the understanding he would chop his share of wood when he came home. "My life was church, football, and chopping wood," he said. Trotter received a football scholarship to Stephen F. Austin, where he collected 300 tackles in three seasons and earned All-Southland Conference honors. He left school early to enter the 1998 draft so he could better support his family. His father was 74 at the time and Trotter said, "It was my time to take over." Going to the NFL allowed him to do that. In eight seasons with the Eagles, Trotter established himself as one of the best middle linebackers in the game. He recorded over 1,000 tackles and punctuated every big hit with a simulated axe chop, a tribute to his father that became his trademark. It also fired up Trotter’s teammates and the Philadelphia fans. "Jeremiah plays with an emotion that is contagious," coach Andy Reid said. "He brings a physical presence that lifts the entire defense. He brings it every week." Fans saw what Trotter did on the field but they didn't see what he went through during the week just to line up and play. He had a series of knee injuries that would have sidelined most players, but he played through them. On a typical Wednesday, you would find Trotter sitting in a film room studying tape of the next opponent while holding a giant ice pack on each knee. Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News once referred to Trotter as "a linebacker with the heart of a lion and the knees of a mailman." "God is the only reason I stay on the field," Trotter once said. "The trainers don't understand how I'm ready to play every week. The doctors don't understand how I'm ready to play every week. God has me ready to play, no matter how I've looked during the week." Trotter left the Eagles after the 2001 season in a contract dispute. He signed a seven-year, $35 million deal with division rival Washington. He exchanged angry words with the front office on his way out the door. The bridge between Trotter and the Eagles was so badly burned, Phil Sheridan wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer, "the Army Corps of Engineers could not have fixed it." But Trotter was unhappy playing in a different system on a losing team in Washington. He reinjured his knee and when Joe Gibbs succeeded Steve Spurrier as head coach in 2004, he released Trotter. At 27, Trotter feared his football career might be over, But he called Andy Reid and after a lengthy conversation the two men agreed Trotter would return to Philadelphia. However, Trotter returned as a backup at a greatly reduced salary. He was assigned to special teams, quite a comedown for a two-time Pro Bowler, but he did not complain. Indeed, he was among the top special teams players as the Eagles opened the 2004 season with seven consecutive victories. But in Week Eight they were routed by Pittsburgh, 27-3. The Steelers ran through the Eagles defense for 252 yards, and defensive coordinator Jim Johnson reinstated Trotter at middle linebacker. The difference was immediate and dramatic. The Eagles had been allowing an average of 172 yards per game on the ground but with Trotter back in the middle, they cut that figure in half. The team set a franchise record with 13 regular season victories and won the NFC championship on its way to Super Bowl XXXIX. Trotter was named to the Pro Bowl despite starting just seven games.  Trotter was all over the field in the conference title game, leading the team in tackles as the Eagles crushed Atlanta, 27-10. During the post-game celebration, Trotter and Reid shared an emotional hug. "Andy said, 'You rallied the troops and I'm proud of you. You played like a champ,'" Trotter said. "That meant a lot. That's not something Andy does a lot." Trotter had three separate chapters to his Eagles career: 1998 to 2001, 2004 to 2006, and one final season in 2009. He was inducted into the team's Honor Roll in 2016 and on a typical Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field you still see fans wearing his number 54 jersey. "Coming to Philadelphia was a blessing," Trotter said. "These fans love their Eagles and they love defense. I came to the right place." --Ray Didinger -Philadelphia Sports Hallof Fame Inductee

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