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Sunday night’s NFL game between Minnesota and Green Bay was so one-sided that I turned the volume down right after halftime and turned off the TV completely shortly after. At this point, I was pretty sure the Vikings had no chance of beating the Packers, and as a result, a playoff berth in Philadelphia was almost guaranteed.
I’ll say it again: The Eagles, who finished 4-12 last year, go to the playoffs, and they do it largely because their first-year head coach, who is from Jamestown, got them there- low.
Yes, Nick Sirianni, the guy who grew up in West Ellicott, has guided Philly to seven wins in their last nine games. To put that in perspective, he’s now only the fourth rookie head coach in NFL history to start season 2-5 and have a winning record.
Pretty good company for Sirianni, and certainly a claim that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie made the right choice when he made the hire a year ago this month. Fans in Philly got very upset when the announcement was made, as at the time Sirianni didn’t have the name recognition but what he did have was a huge endorsement from Reich, who worked with Sirianni when they were on the San Diego / Los Angeles Chargers coaching staff. Reich was also the Eagles’ offensive coordinator when they won Super Bowl 52 in February 2018, so his recommendation carried a lot of weight with Lurie.
Fast forward from last winter to early last summer. In June, I received an email from Zach Berman, the Eagles’ beat writer for the subscription sports website The Athletic, who was planning a trip to Jamestown to make a story on Sirianni. Among other things, the sports reporter wondered how growing up in the community shaped the Southwestern Central School graduate in 1999, and he was also curious if there were any places in town. “To see and share” with Eagles fans.
About a week later I was more than happy to serve Berman’s “Touristic guide.” During our travels in the Southwest, at Johnny’s Lunch on Fairmount Avenue in West Ellicott (a frequent destination for Sirianni during his high school years) and at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame on West Third Street in Jamestown, Berman told me asked why I thought Sirianni was the right guy for the Eagles job.
My answer, if I remember correctly, was short and to the point, something like: “Because he’s been successful wherever he’s coached. “
From Mount Union University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania through the varsity ranks in Kansas City, San Diego and Indianapolis to the NFL, Sirianni has always displayed a keen football sense and enthusiasm. which aroused praise from those around him.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is apparently also a member of that Sirianni-loving fraternity, declaring at his post-game press conference following Sunday’s 20-16 win over the Washington soccer team that consistency of his head coach in preaching the importance of core values a “Has been our goal and our true identity. “
“This is what we are” Hurts said. “With all the young people and all the inexperience, from the coaches to the players, we come to accepting who we are and who we could be, and to trust the grind and approach each day as we do.”
Sirianni admitted that when Eagles defensive back Rodney McLeod intercepted a pass in the end zone in the dying seconds to secure the victory over the Washington football team, he had to “To fight back tears of joy”.
“It’s such an emotional game. That’s why we all love this game so much ”, he said in his post-match press conference. “There are so many ups and downs. It’s so realistic. The excitement and joy when something like this happens…. it’s pretty special to be a part of it.
It wasn’t the only special moment for a Jamestown resident this weekend.
Former Jamestown High School star Jaysean Paige played his first NBA game on Saturday night. Signed for a 10-day contract by Detroit on Friday, Paige played seven minutes in the Pistons’ 117-116 victory over San Antonio. Although he didn’t score – he was 0 of 3 on the pitch – he had an assist and a rebound.
The fact that he’s even on the pitch is a testament not only to his basketball skills, but also to his determination. Despite being only 27 years old, the 2010-11 former Post-Journalist Player of the Year has literally continued his love for hoops across the globe for the past decade. After moving to Hazard, Ky. And playing for Perry County High School in her senior year, Paige landed at the College of Southern Idaho for a year, averaging 13.6 points; transferred to Moberly (Missouri) Area Community College in second year where he obtained an average of 21 points; then moved on to the University of West Virginia.
Under coach Bob Huggins, Paige went from an average of 5.6 points per game as a junior to 14.3 points per game as a senior when he received the sixth man from the year of the Big 12 Conference. Highlights this season include Paige scoring a career-high 34 points against Iowa State and having 26 points, five steals and four rebounds when the Mountaineers upset Kansas, the best.
Prior to this season, Paige played professionally for teams in Germany, North Macedonia, England, Hungary and Puerto Rico and was on his second stint with Maine in the NBA G League when he was signed by the Pistons.
“It’s an inexplicable feeling” he texted me on Saturday morning.
And while it’s unclear whether the 6-foot-2 point guard will have an extended stay in Detroit after his 10-day contract expires, what is certain is that he never gave up his dream.
Look where they are now?