How Jalen Mills passed the ‘baton’ to Eagles rookie JaCoby Stevens

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 28 CFP Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl – Oklahoma v LSU
ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 28: LSU Tigers safety JaCoby Stevens (3) during the College Football Playoffs Semifinal Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl between the LSU Tigers and the Oklahoma Sooners on December 28, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire)

Back in 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles took a flyer on a feisty young defensive back out of LSU. That man was Jalen Mills. The soon-to-be-named Green Goblin would go on to become somewhat of a fan-favorite in Philadelphia, earning a starting CB role out of necessity and refusing to let it go until a positional switch to Safety and a new one-year deal in 2020. In 2021, there will be no more finger-wagging, at least from Mills. The Eagles have however drafted another defensive back out of LSU in the depths of the NFL Draft – JaCoby Stevens.

Out with the old…

While Jalen Mills might have frustrated Eagles fans at the best of times, the one thing he never did was buckle and everyone in Philadelphia respected that. He played every game with a level of confidence, swagger, and aggression that the City craves in its athletes, but behind the mask was someone who wanted to lift up everyone around him. It didn’t take long for Mills to become a leader on the Eagles defense for that reason, breaking down huddles and keeping younger players uplifted when times got tough. It’s something that he actually helped passed down to JaCoby Stevens.

Once a tiger, always a tiger.

Jalen Mills would often revisit LSU after graduating in an attempt to coach up the next generation of Tigers. His words of wisdom were certainly not lost on JaCoby Stevens, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

He always came back to LSU and always talked and spoke his mind. There are countless things that you learn from those guys that come back. He has given us speeches and he’s told us things that he’s seen while he was in Philly, and like you said, all the guys that keep in touch with LSU. 

I remember Jalen came back, and I want to say this was my sophomore year and we were good, but Jalen basically pointed out things that we didn’t even think about how we carried ourselves and how all that stuff has something to do with on the field. 

He talked about us parking in handicap and parking where we’re not supposed to be and how really and truly all those little things carry on to the field. You know, things like that are what stuck out to me when Jalen came back. 

Of course he taught us technique, things he learned in the NFL, but it was little things like that that can separate you not only as a guy on the field, but as a person off the field.

The effect Mills had on his metaphorical protege were clear. Talking from a facility in Louisiana, Stevens had his secretary from high school in attendance to celebrate his drafting. The 6’1, 215 lbs, defender went on to explain how it’s not just representing his family at the next level, but the Eagles, and the City of Philadelphia, showcasing his maturity and a level of awareness about the environment he’s about to step into that is refreshing for a sixth-round selection.

…In with the new

JaCoby Stevens was listed as a Safety when the Eagles announced the pick, but only out of necessity. He had played just about everywhere in LSU’s defense over the past two years and spent most of their national championship-winning campaign as a box safety, pressing at the line of scrimmage and snuffing out the run. Although he dropped back to a deeper role in 2020, he still picked up 6 TFL, only 3 less than the season before, highlighting his efficiency when playing down inside the box.

The Eagles placed a real emphasis on finding versatile players and it’s no coincidence that Stevens would be looking to one day try and fill the hole left by the LSU DB who filled it before him.

It’s going to be a long road for Stevens, who joins a Safety room without much in the way of long-term depth, but plenty of competition. K’Von Wallace plays a similar hybrid role and was drafted in the fourth-round last year, meaning Stevens has his work cut out to try and separate himself from the other DB’s in the room.

It wouldn’t be the first time a former LSU player has been able to do so while wearing midnight green and it would hardly be surprising. If Jalen Mills has been able to prepare Stevens for the bumpy road ahead as it appears he has, then we could be primed to see a lot more from the hybrid player who does much more than just pack a punch.

Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire