Watching Nate Herbig interact with his teammates in the Eagles locker room last season you would swear he was everybody’s little brother, or some oversized puppy bounding from locker stall to locker stall to hang out and shoot the breeze.
He was happy to be on the team, and why not?
Herbig was just 20-years old when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles out of Stanford, entering the draft well before many experts thought he was ready.
He played three snaps in 2019.
Look at him now, and his family and friends back in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he grew up, certainly are, even if it means rising and shining six hours ahead of every Eagles’ kickoff on the east coast.
“Definitely they make it a whole function over there,” said Herbig after Friday’s practice. “It’s not often a kid from a small island gets this opportunity on the east coast to play with the great Philadelphia Eagles let alone the NFL, so their super excited, and I just hope I can make them proud.”
Herbig started the season’s first two games at right guard but has become such a trusted presence on the line that he will move to left guard for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lincoln Financial Field (1 p.m./7 a.m. Hawaiian time), taking the spot of injured Isaac Seuamlo. Matt Pryor will slide in at right guard.
Left or right doesn’t seem to matter to Herbig.
“I feel like it’s the National Football League and every week I step out there there’s going to be good players,” he said. “I have a job to do and (O-line) coach (Jeff Stoutland) trusts me to get the job done and I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let the team down. I have to do my best to do my job and do it well so we can win this game.”
Herbig has shined through the gloom engulfing the Eagles after their 0-2 start, but he is a lineman so maybe the beacon isn’t as bright if it were, say, a skill position player.
“Last year was really big for me going against guys like Fletcher (Cox) every day in practice whether it was at center or guard,” said Herbig.
“It’s made me a lot better player because obviously he’s a beast and just getting to watch guys like Kelce, (Brandon) Brooks, Isaac (Seumalo), Lane (Johnson), JP (Jason Peters) go about their business and just trying to take a little bit from all of them and add to my game and how to be more of a pro, to take care of your body and what they’re thinking before this play or how they surface a block.”
So trusted is Herbig, who turned 22 on July 10, now that the coaches are counting on him making the successful move to the left side of the line.
“I just feel like if you don’t make any excuses for yourself, then that’s a good way to live your life,” he said. “So, move me to left guard, I’m excited. It’s a new opportunity, it’s a new challenge and I’m just not going to make any excuses for myself. I’m going to go out there and try to do my job the best I can.”
Herbig knows what the transition entails and he boiled it down to this: “Everything flips, your hands flip, your stance flips, the play flips, so it’s just being more conscious of those things and just knowing that everything is opposite.”
Herbig’s approach is very pragmatic.
Asked how happy he is now that he has become a starter so quickly in his career, he said:
“I don’t think of it like that. I think of it as we’re 0-2 and we need to win this game and all I’m thinking about is how I can do my job to help the team win this game. That’s literally all I’m thinking. That’s been my mindset the whole week since they asked me to move to left guard and that’s how I’m going to continue to approach it.”
His confidence has grown, though, right?
Again, more pragmatism.
‘I don’t look at it as confidence,” he said. “I look at is, have you prepared the best that you could up to this point, so when your opportunity comes are you ready, or is the opportunity going to be too big?
“I feel like it’s when my back is against the wall and I have to be perfect and locked in, hear the play, hear the call, the cadence, everything, know exactly what I’m going to do with my footwork before the play, is what helps me. I don’t think that is so much confidence as it is preparation.”
Playing next to Johnson on the right side helped.
Now, Herbig will play next to Peters on the left.
“They are both elite in my eyes,” he said. “I’m out there at practice with them every day. Jason Peters is a Hall of Famer and just having his knowledge and the confidence he plays with. Being next to that, I feel like it rubs off on me.
“I know I better personally pick my stuff up to play at his level. That’s the same way I felt playing next to Lane. He’s so great, one of the best, that I felt like I have to elevate my game so I can at least try to match his intensity.”
Get the latest Eagles news by joining the community. Click "Follow" at the top right of the EagleMaven page. Mobile users click the notification bell. And please follow me on Twitter @kracze.