Ironman. The Scramburgler. Philadelphia Eagles’ all-time leading passer. Pro-Bowl quarterback. From 1999 to 2009, Donovan McNabb held many different nicknames during his time in the City of Brotherly Love. Although none of the names really stuck, McNabb’s stature as an iconic franchise-changing figure for the Eagles has endured. From the very start of his NFL journey, the path for McNabb in Philadelphia was rocky. After the Eagles drafted McNabb as the second overall pick out of Syracuse University in 1999, Donovan’s rocky love affair in Philadelphia began with boos by Eagles fans in Madison Square Garden. The die-hard fans wanted the Eagles to draft the reigning Heisman Trophy Winner, Ricky Williams and made their displeasure known. The resilient and motivated McNabb turned early fan disappointment into fuel for what has become an enduring legacy of excellence in Eagles quarterback history.
Recently, in an interview with David Meltzer of Entrepreneur Magazine, McNabb shared that he had no bad feelings towards Eagles fans for booing him on draft night.
“They had an idea of who they wanted and I don’t get upset about someone’s opinion,” McNabb told Meltzer. “I love the fact that they felt that way because that was more motivation for me.”
To understand the argument for McNabb’s future induction into the Hall of Fame, you have to understand his rocky gridiron history in a city that didn’t want him and as one of the NFL’s early African-American quarterbacks. Under intense pressure, McNabb thrived on the field and won over Philadelphia fans. During McNabb’s second year in the league, he led the Eagles to their first of eight playoff appearances while he was at the helm in Philadelphia. During that same time period, the Eagles went to four straight NFC Championship games, with the fourth ending in the Superbowl, where the Eagles lost to the New England Patriots in 2004. From 2000 to 2009, McNabb would make the Pro Bowl six times.
After his ten-year tenure in Philly, it was time for McNabb and the Eagles to part ways. On April 4, 2010, the Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins in return for a second-round (37th overall) pick in the 2010 draft and a conditional 3rd or 4th-round pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Later that year, the Washington Redskins and Donovan McNabb agreed to a five-year extension worth $78 million ($3.5 million guaranteed).
In July of 2011, the Redskins traded McNabb to the Minnesota Vikings. The 2011 season turned out to be the final season for Donovan McNabb in the NFL. Upon retirement, he remained the Eagles’ all-time leading passer with a total of 32,873 yards and the franchise’s winningest quarterback with 101 victories.
The Eagles retired McNabb’s jersey and placed him in their prestigious Ring of Honor.
The future Hall of Famer recently spoke with me about his legacy and why the Donovan McNabb Fund is dear to his heart.
You are the first and only African-American quarterback to lead your team to four straight NFC Championship games during the early 2000s. Thinking back on that streak, where does that rank on your career achievement?
It is kind of hard to say because that wasn’t really one of my goals. Obviously, graduating from college (Syracuse University) and being the first in my family to achieve that feat, to being drafted second overall and to be the starting quarterback of an NFL organization rank high on the list. Also, being able to lead my team to the playoffs and playoff victories are all great memories. I have always been more of a team player. Individual goals for me are things to motivate and drive me. The NFC Championship games did make me proud, being an African-American quarterback, and being able to carry the torch from guys that paved the way before me, like Randall Cunningham, Doug Williams, James Harris, Marlin Briscoe, Vince Evans, and Warren Moon. I felt like I needed to carry the torch and pass the baton to guys who aspire to do something great or those who have been told they are not good enough to play quarterback. I wanted to set the example that African-Americans can play quarterback just like any other position. Also, to see guys wearing the number five that I wore and look up to what I have been able to accomplish and see them having opportunities because of what I’ve done. That stands closer to my heart than anything else.
In the History of the NFL, there have only been four African-American quarterbacks (Doug Williams, Russell Wilson, Steve McNair, Cam Newton & yourself) to lead their teams to the Superbowl and only two have been successful and won it (Doug Williams and Russell Wilson). How does it feel to be one of a handful to achieve this feat?
I feel honored, but we were all blessed with talent around us that propelled us to have that opportunity. Also, to be mentioned with Steve McNair, Doug Williams, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton, is an honor. All of us would have loved to be on top at the end of the Superbowl. However, it is still an honor that not everyone has been able to accomplish. So, it says a lot about our careers and the work ethic we put forward to get to the Superbowl, but it also says how blessed we were with talent and great coaching around us to get there.
Can you talk about the significance of Russell Wilson’s latest deal with the Seattle Seahawks? How has Wilson’s deal opened the door for players such as Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, and possibly Kyler Murray?
They have worked hard and they deserve to be rewarded because they are deserving of it. When I received my hundred-million-dollar contract, it was due to the effort and time that I put forth. So, when talking about what Russell was able to do, Cam the same way, it was because Russell deserves the money. Also, deserving of the money based on the effort and time they put in, are Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, and the list goes on. That is the domino effect that happens in the NFL and we see it so much with the White quarterbacks. Why not reward the African-Americans who are as deserving as well? Russell has opened that door and you will start to see more follow.
How do you think the media is doing in terms of diversity hiring?
I would like to see more diversity and I would like to see more opportunities for everyone, not just African-Americans. I would like to see females given more opportunities. I also think that it is difficult for some people to switch to media because it is not always easy to speak your mind in regards to sports coverage. Some hold back, while others are not able to talk in front of the camera comfortably enough to say things from the heart. You also must break things down to a sense where playing a football game is easy and convey it in a manner where your audience understands what you are talking about.
Why is your foundation so close to your heart?
It is close to my heart because my father was diagnosed with diabetes along with my grandfather and grandmother. I also have other family members and friends that have also been diagnosed with the disease. Americans and African-Americans in particular need to go out and get tested. Everyone should see a doctor and find out more about your family’s health history. There are a lot of men that are afraid to go to the doctor and get tested to learn more about their health. We are quick to go and help others, but will not always make an appointment to make sure our personal health is in good standing. Also, when people hear the word diet, it seems like it only pertains to a health scare, but it is a proactive avenue to help take care of your body.
What do you want your legacy to be moving forward?
I want to be remembered as an individual who cared about others and always willing to sacrifice to better the life of someone else. I also want to be remembered as a hard worker, good father, one who played football professionally and enjoyed every bit of it. The guy who put up great numbers and at the end of the day always had a smile on his face.
Your daughter Alexis is a 2022 point/shooting guard prospect. When it is time for her to graduate and possibly pursue a professional career in the WNBA where would you like to see the women’s league in terms of financial security?
My daughter will be graduating high school in 2022, but I think professional opportunities should be there for the women just like they are for the men. We have the platform to be able to showcase these athletes, who we watch four or five years in college, who display great talents while battling through the tournaments and win a National Championship and become All Americans. My niece played at the University of Connecticut, started all four years and won two National Championships. It was an honor to see someone so close to me with her talent recognized at such an elite level. I would also like to see my kids receive the same opportunity. So, why not give them the opportunity to play in the United States and in the WNBA, and let them do it as effectively just like in college?
Would you consider partnering with Kobe Bryant and bring a WNBA team to Philly?
That would be something to explore. Kobe and I are highly competitive entrepreneurs, and we both are willing to lend a helping hand. He is definitely supportive of what his daughter is doing in basketball and is even coaching her team. I coach as well with our organization for our girls’ team and help coach the older team. I would like to see all the girls, including, my daughters, Gigi and Alexis achieve their dreams. If there are any opportunities where we could possibly own a team in the future, we would definitely explore it.
Would you be interested at some point in sitting down with Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie to discuss a possible ownership stake in the team?
It would be something to think about and if the opportunity arises, I would definitely consider it. I don’t shy away from any great business venture where you are rewarded with great capital while helping and uplifting the organization. I greatly appreciate what the Eagles organization has done for my career and my family. I still support the team and I’m happy when they have success. Jeffrey Lurie is a close friend of our family and Andy Reid when he was coaching for the Eagles; the list goes on with the organization. So, I don’t think an ownership stake is one I could say no to. I would definitely look into it and see how I could help make a positive change.
We at The Hype Magazine would like to congratulate Donovan McNabb on being inducted into the Philadephia Hall of Fame!
Originally posted on The Hype Magazine.