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Draft Slide Will Always be Part of His Story, but Nakobe Dean has Eagles Excited

Despite shoulder concerns, the linebacker had veteran Brandon Graham and fellow rookie Jordan Davis believing he will be a big part of the 2022 defense

PHILADELPHIA – The slide is a part of his story now. There’s no erasing it.

Nakobe Dean could become the next Ray Lewis, and the fact that he surprisingly dropped out of the first round and was there when the Eagles took him after 82 players had gone ahead of him in the draft will always be there.

“That’ll definitely going to be something that sticks with me,” he said on Friday, the first day of the Eagles’ two-day rookie camp. “It’s not my primary or secondary source of motivation. Or my tertiary. But it’s going to be something that sticks with me throughout my playing career.”

Dean was the heartbeat on one of the best college defenses in the history of college football, with seven players selected from it in the first three rounds of the draft, which was a record for most players from the same school picked over that span.

It’s not the heart, however, that caused Dean to drop, but a shoulder.

There were late, pre-draft concerns that surgery was recommended for a pec strain, but Dean declined. It turned out to not be true, the linebacker said after the draft. He did have surgery on his right shoulder for a torn labrum in early 2021.

It’s a concern, but in Philadelphia, there is still a good portion of the fan base that can’t believe he is with the Eagles judging by some responses to a picture of him meeting with reporters on Friday that was posted on social media.

The concern over a potentially balky shoulder, however, is overshadowed by his good friend and longtime teammate at Georgia who will now be a longtime teammate of his with the Eagles, Jordan Davis.

“We talk on the phone all the time,” Dean said about Davis. “We’re friends. He’s a good friend of mine, so we’re always talking on the phone about everything. Since we’ve been here, we’ve been talking every day. It feels good to be back on the field with him.

“I feel like it’s going to help me from the standpoint of getting more comfortable. He’s such an easy-going guy. He gets comfortable with people fast. If I see how he’s interacting with everybody, that’ll help me be more comfortable and get more connected with the team.”

Nakobe Dean

Nakobe Dean (right) celebrates a play at the University of Georgia.

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At 5-11, 229 pounds, Dean relies on his quickness, instincts, and intelligence to make plays. 

He entered the draft early so he has yet to complete his degree in mechanical engineering but said that no matter what he does, he will go back to get it. He may even pursue pre-med if, “I feel like doing chemistry.”

Dean added that he wants to work on prosthetics since his mom is an Army veteran, serving before he was born, and he has been to veterans' hospitals and saw veterans who have lost limbs.

Right now, though, it’s time for football.

Dean said he was expecting to do everything at rookie camp that was asked of him on the field, a place some veterans can’t wait to see what he can do.

“Oooh, that boy’s going to be sideline to sideline,” said veteran edge Brandon Graham last week. “It’s just all about him coming in, knowing the plays, knowing exactly where (defensive coordinator) coach (Jonatha) Gannon wants him to be, and playing at a high level. I definitely know he’s going to come here and be able to help this team.

“(He will) have that chip on his shoulder when you see the draft and how the picks went. It’s just really all about your mindset, your attitude. I hope he comes in with a great attitude because of what I see on tape and what I saw him do against Michigan (in the college football championship semifinals in January). I’m hoping it’s a duplicate of what he’s going to do here.”

Dean had five solo tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss in that 34-11 win. No matter what he did in that game or during the Bulldogs’ championship season, wasn't enough to stop his draft slide.

“A little disappointed, but I’m grateful that he has a home and that he has a spot,” said his friend, defensive tackle, and first-round Eagles pick, Davis.

“It’s great for the Eagles. Nakobe is a first-round caliber player. I believe that, no matter where he got picked. It’s not where you start. It’s how you finish. And I’m sure Nakobe is going to finish as one of the greats when he’s all done.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.