PHILADELPHIA - By the start of training camp, Nick Rallis will be 28 years old, and maybe with a few more inches in height and a little more athleticism, the former University of Minnesota linebacker would be entering the prime of his NFL career.
Instead, he's tutoring the Eagles' linebackers as what is believed to be the youngest full-time position coach in the NFL and on the fast track to bigger things.
Rallis will also be piloting a very young room as a whole with only the two projected starters - Alex Singleton and Eric Wilson - in earshot of their coach on the calendar. Rallis has Singleton, 27, by less than five months and the 26-year-old Wilson, who he coached in Minnesota, by about 14 months.
Everyone else in the Eagles' LB room is 24 or younger with rookies JaCoby Stevens and Patrick Johnson joining second-year players Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley, as well as holdovers T.J. Edwards and Rashad Smith.
"I don’t think about too much as far as where do I lack in my lack of experience," Rallis said earlier this week. "I just try to focus on accumulating as much knowledge as possible, whether that’s utilizing [defensive coordinator] Jonathan Gannon or [seconday coach] Dennard Wilson, [defensive line coach] Tracy Rocker, the offensive coaches, continuous learning I think has been critical for me."
With youth comes energy and that has been the theme with the new coaching staff starting with Nick Sirianni himself, the head coach who is as ebullient as it gets and will turn the page to 40 next week.
“I really like his energy. This guy loves football,” Sirianni told the Eagles' website when talking about Rallis, whose older brother Michael is better known as WWE wrestler Riccick Moss.
To Sirianni, bringing it Brandon Graham-style every day when it comes to setting the tone is very important.
“He eats, drinks, and sleeps ball. He loves it," Sirianni said. "... And that’s contagious. And I can feel that. I can feel it. And just to hear him talk about linebacker play, he’s intense.
"He still looks like a linebacker, I’m not sure he still couldn’t play. I just think his ceiling [as a coach] is so high. He’s just gonna keep going [up]. He’s already a great coach but he’s just going to keep going [up] because he loves it. He loves what he does.”
Rallis came to the Eagles heavily recommended by his old boss in Minnesota, Adam Zimmer, now the co-defensive coordinator under his dad Mike, who is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in football and heavily influenced both Gannon and Rallis.
"You kind of take [being around Mike Zimmer] for granted that you’re in the mix, you’re game planning and just focusing on doing a really good job at your job and I didn’t realize that I was at a very young age in my coaching career that he was really teaching me how do you really break down and game plan for an opponent," Rallis explained.
"The way he viewed the game, the way that he looked at each [opposing] coordinator differently, trying to find the coordinator’s DNA, what is this guy really about, and how will we counter that on defense to take away whatever it is they do well?
"You’re so wrapped up in it that you really don’t realize that this guy is like laying the path of, ‘hey dude, this is how you look at the game.’ You almost take it for granted a little bit because you didn’t realize he was doing it."
It's easy to see what the Eagles see in Rallis, a young defensive mind ahead of the curve from a teaching and fundamentals perspective who also can reach a younger generation and is open-minded about the evolution of the game and where it's going.
"This game, it’s a forever adapting game and you have to be willing to adapt the way you think and some of your philosophies," said Ralles. "You can’t be set in stone any one way, so I kind of look at that as this is how I carry my life, trying to be a continuous learner and accepting I’m not always going to have all the answers."
Helping him find the answers will be Wilson, who signed in Philadelphia after developing into a bit of a playmaker for the Vikings while filling in for the well-regarded Anthony Barr last season.
"You add Eric Wilson whether I worked with him or not, he adds value to your team because he’s talented, he loves football, he works hard, and I’ve seen Eric really project into a great leader since being here," said Rallis. "Back in Minnesota, he was in a room where he had some older guys with him and he definitely led by example, but he was the younger guy.
"So, now coming in he’s actually one of our older linebackers. He’s done a phenomenal job of taking guys along and helping lead and showing them, 'hey this is how we work, this is how we study,' and so on. He’s been huge outside of what he’s been able to do on the field just from a leadership standpoint. He’s always in the building, he’s working hard, he just sets the tone not just for the linebackers, not just the defense, but the entire team."
As with any successful young man, the ambition is there for Rallis.
"Yeah, coordinator head coach, sure, it would probably be great," he said of future aspirations, "but it’s not something I really want to sit here and focus on because I think it will take away from me as a linebacker coach. So, my aspiration right now is to be the best linebacker coach I can be, day in and day out, whether that’s right now what am I going to do right after this? I have to make sure it’s leading toward how can I coach my room better? What do I have to do, go make a teach tape? Whatever it is.
"Yeah, you might have aspirations down the line, but you have to stay present in order to maximize yourself."
The Eagles just wrapped up a modified offseason program last week. 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 email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven 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.