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Why everyone loves the underdog Eagles, especially the Eagles

Everyone loves an underdog story, especially the underdogs themselves. Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz explains why.

NFC Championship - Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

We love an underdog. America embraces the lovable team that’s not expected to win, especially when people can’t find a team to root for. They latch onto them. This week, for the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles are the underdog.

There are two types of underdogs. The first is the lifelong underdog, the classic — someone or some team that has never had the ability and has no history of winning. Maybe even the classic lovable loser.

Then there’s the other kind: a power who’s had injuries or some outside force that has turned a magical season into something else. The Eagles are that type of underdog.

The Eagles were the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but when Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL late in the season, they turned to Nick Foles to guide the offense. The Eagles were the first home underdog in the Divisional Round since 1970.

They beat the Falcons and were still home underdogs to the Vikings in the NFC Championship. They beat the Vikings too. Now, they’re underdogs in the Super Bowl to the Patriots.

We love underdog stories because we can relate. Underdogs have to put in more work, more hustle, so it means more when they win, in sports or in life. I was fortunate to have this body, but my sports story is an underdog story. I know people will get bent out of shape because I ended up going to college on scholarship and played eight years in the NFL. That doesn’t mean someone isn’t an underdog at certain points of the process, especially when compared to their counterparts.

I grew up playing baseball and basketball, and I only started to play football in high school at the request of my math teacher, who was also the JV football coach.

Not all big people are meant to play football. Being big is a plus, but you have to understand how to be physical. I didn’t. I was soft. Luckily, I had coaches who believed in me or who yelled at me until I figured out what to do. Finally it clicked, but even so, I was told repeatedly that I wouldn’t play college football by high school coaches who thought focusing on three sports was a waste.

(By the way, kids, play every sport possible. Don’t limit yourself to one sport early in life.)

Then I get to college, and my junior season I played with a bad back injury and played terribly. I asked a coach on the team what he thought about my prospects of playing. He told me not to worry about that because I wouldn’t be playing in the NFL. Well, he was wrong as well.

In the draft process, I had a decent combine, or maybe not. Pro day was good, at least I thought it was. On draft day, I was drafted at the end of the seventh round. I was better than that, but that’s where I was taken.

First season, it was the practice squad. By my third season, I played every rep. I thought I was on my way to that big second contract. Nope. Two hip surgeries. I missed the 2011 season. Headed to Minnesota; got injured again. Go to Kansas City, and things finally went well. I signed the big contract in New York then dislocated my toe and broke my leg twice. Ugh. Always injured.

So when you succeed as an underdog, it feels more rewarding to finish on a high note. As a late seventh-round pick who started on the practice squad, I played eight NFL seasons for four teams (five if you include the Lions who cut me in camp my last season), with seven major injuries.

I’m proud of my career because I felt I had to work through adversity maybe more than others. It feels more satisfying to win or succeed as the underdog. Y’all know the feeling.

So the Eagles are once again underdogs in the Super Bowl. As players, as a team, and as a coaching staff, we shouldn’t need extra motivation this time of the year. In fact, I believe you should be self-motivated all season to succeed, but it’s never bad to add fuel to the fire.

And the mantra of being an underdog is like adding jet fuel in the locker room. It’s a rallying cry throughout the facility. Every meeting it’s mentioned. At practice, coaches will remind you during drills. At the end of practice, a coach will remind you again. It becomes a mantra.

Underdog status also unites a fan base with its players. Eagles players are wearing dog masks, so Eagles fans rush to purchase them. It’s a rallying cry that the fan base can understand, because we know the feeling of being an underdog at some point in our lifetime.

Winning in the NFL is sweet. It’s the only thing that makes every single person in the facility happy. Winning is the only feeling that I miss about being in the NFL. There’s nothing sweeter. So when you’re the underdog and you win, you feel an extra sense of pride and joy. An extra sense of accomplishment. That’s why we love underdogs.

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