Saturday’s game against Temple won’t be the first time offensive lineman Ellis McKennie has stepped foot on Lincoln Financial Field. He’ll never forget the first.
At 8 years old, McKennie won sideline passes to an Eagles game after writing a letter about why he was the biggest fan of the team. His mother, Jodi McKennie, said winning the Eagles Kids Club contest was the “greatest thing he ever got to do.”
“I just remember going down on the field before the game and like all the cheerleaders were down there and stuff, getting to watch the players run out,” Ellis said. “And since it was like the thing that I won, I was on the big screen during the game and stuff. So that was an exciting moment being at the Linc.”
The Eagles beat the Ravens 15-10 in the 2004 matchup. Ellis recalls Terrell Owens doing the Ray Lewis dance in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.
He put a lot of effort into the letter to stand out from the crowd. Jodi remembers him coloring the envelope entirely in green marker, then writing every players’ name around it “because he was so proud of everybody.”
In the letter itself, Ellis listed the stats for each player on the team, but had a lot to say about one in particular.
“He went on and on about Donovan McNabb. That was his man, when Donovan was the quarterback,” Jodi told Testudo Times. “Even at 8 years old, he could give you all the stats for the Eagles, he could tell you how many yards everybody rushed for, how many touchdown passes, turnovers, sacks. He knew all the stats for everybody, even when he was eight.”
Jodi has countless stories of her son’s Eagles fandom. Though he grew up in McSherrytown, Pennsylvania, which is closer to Baltimore, his dad is from Philadelphia and sparked his love of the team from infantry.
One year, the whole family took its Christmas photo decked in team apparel. His bedroom set growing up was of course covered in the green and white, and to this day he has a big Eagles pillow at his apartment.
In 2010, news of Donovan McNabb being traded to the Redskins halted Easter dinner. Once he saw the news, Eliis was too upset to finish dinner and insisted on walking home from the family event.
But it was pure joy when the team won its first Super Bowl in 2017, which he went home to watch with his family.
“He and his father both cried when they won the Super Bowl,” Jodi said. “It was just one of those moments where it’s surreal. You don’t think anybody could be that big of a fan, but I guess they felt like they were they were part of that victory. … They both have Super Bowl rings, you know, like knockoff Super Bowl rings, that they keep because that was such a big deal for them.”
Super Bowl Champions. I can’t believe it. #flyeaglesfly— Ellis McKennie (@emck_cubed97) February 5, 2018
Even with a lot of Redskins and Ravens fans on the team, McKennie never shies away from his love of the Eagles.
“Ellis is like the biggest Eagles fan in the world,” tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo said. “Whenever it’s anybody versus the Eagles, Ellis will talk his head off.”
That was especially true this past Sunday when Philadelphia played Washington in the season opener. McKennie started chuckling as soon as he was asked about watching the game with his Redskins loving teammates.
“There’s a couple Eagles fans. Johnny Jordan’s a big Eagles fan and Marcus Minor’s a big Eagles fan,” he said. “And then you have a couple quiet Redskins fans, they don’t admit to it all the time, you know. But there are a couple of them out there that were pretty loud in the first quarter this weekend.
“Yeah, I came in with my Carson Wentz jersey, caught a little bit of flack. But you know, then I showed up at dinner after the W and then they were kind of quiet.”
Less than a week after that win, he’ll get to suit up on the same field for the Terps.
“We always talked about, ‘Oh if he goes in the NFL and ever got to play at Lincoln Financial,’” Jodi said. “That’s why it’s such a blessing that he that he’s going to get to do that finally.”
Some Maryland players think it’s cool to play in an NFL stadium, while others see it as just another game. McKennie is by far the most enthused, and his teammates say he’s been talking about it all week.
“It’s just going to be cool being there where the Eagles play every week. I’m usually watching on TV, so it’ll be exciting to be there for myself, definitely,” he said. “I’m very excited to play at the Link, hopefully get a win there too. That would be exciting.”