Bring it on, Chris Maragos proclaims.
The Horlick High School graduate is 29, at the peak of his physical prowess and can’t wait to be turned loose for the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in the coming weeks. They open their preseason schedule on Aug. 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Philadelphia.
“It’s crazy, but I just honestly feel that I keep on getting stronger and better every year,” the special teams ace said. “The mental aspect of the game just continues to increase and, athletically, I feel that I’m just starting to reach my potential.”
“It’s really exciting. I think my best football is still ahead of me.”
That’s downright scary, considering the esteem Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp already has for Maragos.
“He’s as complete of a special teams player as there is in the National Football League,” Fipp said. “And, really, he’s even a better person. He’s really what this game should be all about. Guys like him are just great role models.”
It’s been quite a journey for Maragos, who played his first three high school seasons at Park before transferring to Horlick for his senior year in 2004. And each step of the way has brought him something substantial.
He was a walk-on receiver for Western Michigan, where he became friends with future Green Bay Packers standout Greg Jennings and met his future wife, Serah. When he transferred to Wisconsin in 2007, then-UW coach Bret Bielema switched him to safety, where he found his true identity and went on to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference honors.
An immediate presence
When Maragos signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2010, the assistant special teams coach was Fipp. And Fipp still remembers Maragos, a fringe player who would be released twice by the 49ers, having such a presence almost from the beginning as he struggled to make the team.
“He came into the defensive backs room — and I wasn’t in that room all the time — but I heard those players talk about him,” Fipp said. “He was brand new, but he had all the answers for the defense.
“Like half the veteran players at that time would go to him and ask him, ‘Hey, what do we do on this?’ and ‘What do we do on that?’ He was only there for a handful of months and those guys were all looking up to him.”
That was the case after Maragos signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011 and went on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks in February 2014. And that was the case when he signed with a three-year contract worth $4 million with the Eagles in March 2014.
Fipps’ role in bringing Maragos to Philadelphia? Actually, very little. Maragos’ performance did most of the talking.
“To be honest with you, his name and his reputation were out there to the point where all of our people knew who he was,” Fipp said. “They actually came to me about him. And when they did, it was slam-dunk, no-brainer.”
A new start
After the Eagles slipped to 7-9 last season, the Eagles fired coach Chip Kelly and hired Doug Pederson, one of Brett Favre’s former backup quarterbacks with the Packers. While Pederson has no head coaching experience, that doesn’t matter to Maragos.
“He’s a player’s coach,” Maragos said. “He’s a guy who really connects well. He understands what the players are feeling and thinking and what they’re going through. It’s really great having a coach like that who feels those types of things.”
The Eagles also re-signed defensive tackle Fletcher Cox for $63 million in guaranteed money and used to the second pick in this year’s NFL draft to select quarterback Carson Wentz.
“The foundation is laid,” Maragos said. “We’ve got a lot of good talent.”
And Maragos hopes to be a part of it for the long haul, even though his contract expires after this season. How does he plan to deal with that? With the same work ethic that has put him in the position he’s in.
“The biggest thing for me is to go out there and play football,” said Maragos, who is the father of sons Micah, 4, and Mason, 2. “I’m always interested in talking (about a contract) and continuing my career as a Philadelphia Eagle, but at the same time, I understand this is a business.
“The Eagles have to do what’s best for them moving forward and I have to do what’s best for me moving forward.”
Take it from someone who has made a habit of moving forward so successfully.