Eagles Get 'A Rare Breed' in Memphis RB Kenny Gainwell

The Eagles added a potential RB2 on Day 3 of the NFL Draft
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PHILADELPHIA - Yazoo City, Miss., is becoming fertile ground for the Eagles.

The team's best player, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, grew up there and now his cousin is coming to town.

Former University of Memphis running back Kenny Gainwell was selected by the Eagles in the fifth round of the 2021 draft at No. 150 overall and Cox quickly welcomed his younger cousin via social media.

"The city is very excited about me and Fletcher," said Gainwell. "Man, they just excited about us. They're excited that we play ball, and now we are playing with each other on the same team, so they are going to be even more excited."

At 5-8 and 201 pounds, Gainwell was a good value as a Day 3 option and the only offensive player selected by Philadelphia on Saturday, slipping perhaps due to sitting out the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns which hit the Gainwell family in a tragic way.

With no season, Gainwell just hit the training room hard.

"I basically just started training," he said. "So, basically, the next week after I opted out I started training and I've been working out ever since. It’s been basically six months for me working out straight, non-stop. I've just been putting in the work, staying down, staying healthy throughout this process."

Production-wise, Gainwell was off the charts during his one season at Memphis (2019) when he was named first-team All-American Athletic Conference and the AAC Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,459 yards on 231 carries (6.3 per rush) and adding 51 receptions for 610 yards.

"Just that one year, Coach Norvell [Memphis head coach Mike Norvell] taught me a lot," Gainwell said. "Coming in young, playing young, I had to learn the playbook as fast as I can. I kind of did what I had to do. I put in the work and made sure I stayed on top of what I had to do. That kind of gave me the upper hand."

Even with the success, that's a very small sample size for evaluators, however, so the inactivity certainly hurt the former dual-threat quarterback and track star at Yazoo City High School. 

Long term, though, it could be a blessing in disguise because fewer reps mean less wear and tear at a position with a limited shelf life.

The Eagles will have plenty of players in the mix to back up Miles Sanders, but Gainwell will be given every opportunity to wrest the job from Boston Scott. Also around are veteran Jordan Howard and 2020 waiver-wire pickup Jason Huntley.

That competition might seem daunting to the average fifth-round pick but not for Gainwell, who acts like what he once was back at Memphis, a 1,400-yard rusher.

"I'm a rare breed," he said. "I'm a different one."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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