As the Philadelphia Eagles finalize their roster just over a week away from the opening game of the 2022 NFL season, expectations are soaring throughout the Philadelphia area. Last-minute roster improvements have pushed a fan base known for its incredible passion even further, and one home in Villanova maximized the excitement on Wednesday evening.
Fly Eagles Fly!
John Braithwaite, a long-time season ticket holder, hired Ukrainian artist Viacheslav Kuzema to carve a tree in his backyard with a height of 15 feet in the shape of a bald eagle perched on top of a football. The epic unveiling took place in front of an estimated crowd of 200 people, including former Eagles Fred Barnett and Kevin Reilly.
The Eagles Pep Band also made an appearance with a second rendition of the famed fight song, and stadium favorite Chickie’s and Pete’s hit the scene with a food truck serving the chain’s signature crab fries and cheesesteaks. A friend of the hosts even sang the Star Spangled Banner to amplify the anticipation before the official unveiling.
While the event did not require admission, guests were encouraged to donate to the Eagles Autism Foundation. Reilly raised additional money through a live auction that included a football signed by legendary head coach Dick Vermeil.
Reilly overcame tragedy after a rare tumor forced the amputation of his left arm and ended his playing career in 1976. His talents as an acclaimed motivational speaker came to the forefront when he spoke to the crowd about the strides he expects from quarterback Jalen Hurts in 2022. He even set a high standard for the season by predicting 11 or 12 wins.
Barnett played six seasons in Philadelphia from 1990-1995, making one Pro Bowl appearance in 1992. He sits 12th in franchise history with 4,634 yards.
Braithewaite relished in the excitement of the upcoming Eagles season (and emphatically thanked his wife Tanya for supporting the intensity of his fandom). His running tradition of wearing a green Santa Clause costume to an Eagles home game every year before Christmas makes him a staple at Lincoln Financial Field. He even told the fanatical story about naming his daughter, Freddy, after Barnett because of a memorable victory on the day she was born.
Nothing gets residents of the Philadelphia area excited quite like the prospect of Eagles football, and the hopes for the team to reenter the conversation as contenders in 2022 will only force the most rabid fan base in the NFL to higher levels. A late August evening in Villanova is just the latest example.