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Andy Reid’s fingerprints still on Eagles’ roster more than a decade after he left

 Eagles coach Andy Reid watches as Jason Kelce (62) is helped off the field in 2012.
Eagles coach Andy Reid watches as Jason Kelce (62) is helped off the field in 2012. Drafted by Reid, who left Philadelphia after 2012, Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham still play for the Eagles.
(Mel Evans / Associated Press)
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Andy Reid was the Philadelphia Eagles coach when the team drafted linebacker Brandon Graham in 2010, center Jason Kelce in 2011 and defensive lineman Fletcher Cox in 2012.

The three players remain stalwarts for a team that will try to prevent Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs from winning a second Super Bowl title in four years.

Reid gave all three players hugs Monday during the so-called Super Bowl “opening night.”

“We go our separate ways and get ready to play,” Reid said this week, “but I’m proud of ‘em.”

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Graham said it was the first time he had spoken with Reid since Reid led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory at the end of the 2019 season.

Travis and Jason Kelce are on opposing sides for the Chiefs and Eagles in the 2023 Super Bowl, and their father understands their competitive nature.

“We had won the Super Bowl already,” Graham said of the Eagles’ victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII to end the 2017 season, “and to see him finally win one, it was definitely a great feeling.

“So, yeah man, it’s come full circle for me now playing against my former coach and going into Year 13 still with the Eagles. I couldn’t ask for a better year going to the Super Bowl.”

Kelce, the older brother of Chiefs star tight end Jason Kelce, said he has remained in touch with Reid.

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“Andy was an incredible meaningful mentor, coach and person in my life when I first got to the NFL,” he said. “He’s been really meaningful to my brother. ... I consider it an honor to have been drafted by such a legendary coach. I guarantee Brandon and Fletcher feel the same way.”

Said Cox: “He gave me a chance. He drafted me and believed in me. I’m sure I’ll see him before and after the game, so that’s a relationship you’ll never lose.”

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Super different

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) waves as Kendall Blanton (80) watches.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) waves as Kendall Blanton (80) watches. Blanton also was a member of last season’s Rams Super Bowl team.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

A year ago, tight end Kendall Blanton started for the Rams in their 23-20 Super Bowl LVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium.

Now Blanton is a practice squad player for the Chiefs.

“Everyone should get a chance to experience the Super Bowl,” Blanton said. “The fact that I get to do it twice, back to back, is awesome.

“I’m blessed. I thank God for it, but it’s different.”

Blanton, who caught a touchdown pass in an NFC divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, started the Super Bowl in place of injured Travis Higbee, playing 30 snaps on offense before he suffered a shoulder injury.

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But last summer, the Rams released him before the end of training camp. He spent time with the Washington Commanders and Chiefs before the Rams re-signed him in late September.

Long before advancing to the Super Bowl in Arizona to play the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles were close to calling Phoenix their new home.

Blanton played in four games and caught two passes but the Rams released him again in late November, and he signed with the Chiefs.

Blanton, a Kansas City native and the son of former Chiefs linebacker Jerry Blanton, said he watched last year’s Super Bowl for the first time last week.

“I got hurt in the game and I just didn’t want to see it,” he said. “I went back and watched it — and I played pretty well. ... It’s crazy how one year ago I was starting in it and now I’m still here but in a completely different role.

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“That’s just how life goes. I’m not bitter about it. I just know this is part of my journey. For whatever reason, it is. I’m going to take it and I’m probably going to be back on this stage one day in a whole ‘nother situation, a whole different role.

“That’s just my mentality.”

Blanton said his confidence has not wavered.

As Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes readies to play in the 2023 Super Bowl with an injured ankle, Rams legend Jack Youngblood recalls playing with a broken tibia.

“I know I’m good enough to play on any team in this league,” he said, adding that he has learned much from working with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow as a player,” he said.

Kelce said the Chiefs have learned from Blanton.

“We were talking to Kendall about his experience in the Super Bowl — and everybody’s word is valuable,” Kelce said. “Especially when you get here, you try to gather as much information as you possibly can.

“And Kendall has won one, being a starting guy. And it’s so cool to just have him in the building, him being a Kansas City guy, being his home, we’re going to try and get him another one this week.”

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Rivers cheering Eagles

Shane Steichen talks with quarterback Philip Rivers during their time together with the Chargers.
Shane Steichen worked with Philip Rivers when both were with the Chargers. Steichen is currently the offensive coordinator for the Eagles.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen reported this week that at least one former Charger is pumped for the game Sunday: Philip Rivers.

“He’s fired up,” Steichen said. “He obviously knows our offense well. I’m sure he recognizes a lot of it on TV. He’s the best. I loved my time with him.”

Steichen spent nine seasons with the Chargers, including three as Rivers’ position coach. He also was the team’s offensive coordinator for part of 2019 and all of 2020.

After Anthony Lynn was fired, Steichen departed to become the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. He said he and Rivers still communicate at least once a week.

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Unlikely path

Eagles safety Marcus Epps runs onto the field before the NFC championship game.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Marcus Epps, who played high school football in Southern California, runs onto the field before the NFC championship game.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Marcus Epps had no scholarship offers coming out of high school, walked on at Wyoming, was waived during his rookie season in the NFL and now will start Super Bowl LVII for the Eagles.

“There never was a doubt in my mind,” the safety said. “I always knew that I had the ability and the work ethic.”

Pat Mahomes, former MLB pitcher and father of Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, told his son to quit football, thinking his future was in baseball or basketball.

Epps grew up in Eagle Rock and attended Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High for one year before moving to Orange County and transferring to Huntington Beach Edison.

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After becoming a four-year starter at Wyoming, Epps was drafted in the sixth round by Minnesota in 2019. He was released that November and signed with the Eagles.

He started all 17 regular-season games this year, compiling 94 tackles.

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