Eagles’ Rodney McLeod on activism, Black history and why Philadelphia has ‘no quit’

Eagles free safety Rodney McLeod says he's excited about Philadelphia's draft haul. Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

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The Philadelphia Eagles‘ 2020 season all but hung in the balance on Sunday night in Santa Clara. Early in their prime-time showdown with the San Francisco 49ers, the home team threatened to erase Philly’s eight-point lead — and, ultimately, their early-season status as likely playoff material. Quarterback Nick Mullens floated a pass toward the Eagles’ end zone with the first quarter nearing its close, the stadium’s virtual crowd prepared to explode. The ball went up, then finally landed cleanly in the hands of … Rodney McLeod. The veteran Eagles safety’s interception didn’t just stop the 49ers from scoring on that drive. It also paved the way for the Birds’ much-needed first win of the year, helping correct the wayward course of a one-time Super Bowl contender.

McLeod, 30, is no stranger to takeaways. In just over four seasons with the team, he’s recorded more interceptions (9) than all but three others Eagles defensive backs since 2010. But the Maryland product, who came to Philadelphia in 2016 after four years with the Rams, has never just been about changing games on defense. He’s invested in changing communities as well.

Anyone who’s given an inkling of attention to the Eagles’ community efforts in recent years should know McLeod has become an unofficial spokesman for the team’s off-field work, following in the footsteps of his former teammate and fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins. But 2020 has been especially fruitful — and challenging — for the former Super Bowl champion. Just this week, McLeod announced a partnership with WHYY, a local radio station, for a Game Changers initiative designed to empower Greater Philadelphia youth.


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There were times, Rodney McLeod admits now, when he wasn’t sure “I had it in me” to recover from a torn ACL suffered in December 2020 in time to play during the 2021 Eagles season. The long hours of rehab that translated to mini-steps of recovery seemed like such a mountain to climb for McLeod, who had suffered the same injury in 2018 and also had come back from a rotator cuff injury a season later.

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