Eagles Hall of Fame

David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

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David Akers on years with Eagles: 'The fans changed my life'

Editor's note: This story originally ran Aug. 31.

When you talk about David Akers, you pretty much have to talk about opening day 2000.
 
It wasn’t just the hottest game in NFL history and one of the Eagles' greatest wins over the Cowboys, it was the start of an 11-year run in which the Eagles went to the playoffs nine times, reached five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl and averaged 10½ wins per year.
 
And when Akers talks about memories of his 12 years with the Eagles, he has to start on that blazing hot afternoon, Sept. 3, 2000, at Texas Stadium.
 
"It was my first game, first year as a full-time kicker, my first kickoff as a full-time kicker," Akers recalled. "And Andy Reid comes in before the game and says if we lose the coin toss, we're opening the game with an onside kick.
 
"I was like, 'You're kidding, right?' I was really worried about not doing well and now we're starting the game with an onside kick? I had already been cut by three teams, and I was like, 'Man, if I screw this up, I might as well just pack up and leave.' "
 
As we all know, Akers' onside kick was perfect, Dameane Douglas recovered, and just a few minutes later Donovan McNabb's TD pass to Stanley Pritchett had the Eagles on their way to a historic 41-14 win over the Cowboys in what came to be known as the Pickle Juice Game.
 
Before he was finished with the Eagles, Akers scored a franchise-record 1,323 points and played a franchise-record 188 games. Along with Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas and Brian Dawkins, he became one of four players in franchise history to play in 10 postseason wins.
 
On Wednesday evening, Akers learned that this fall he'll become the 50th inductee in the Eagles Hall of Fame.
 
Akers is scheduled to be inducted Oct. 23 at halftime of the Eagles-Redskins game at the Linc.
 
“I loved my time in Philly," said Akers, who kicked here from 1999 through 2010. "The fans changed my life. People talk about the billboard we left (when he left Philly), but honestly, it was a true bottom-of-the-heart thank you from my family.
 
"I hope when the fans look at everything, they know I tried the best I could. I always did it for the team, the organization, the fans, and the reality is that none of us are perfect and obviously I would like to have some field goals back in my career, but if I rewrote how things went down, I probably wouldn’t change very much. And I wouldn’t change where I played my 12 years."
 
After getting cut by the Panthers, Redskins and Falcons as an undrafted kicker out of Louisville, Akers found a home in Philadelphia. And even though he finished his career with brief stops in San Francisco and Detroit — it was with the 49ers that he tied the then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal — it was in Philly that he put up historic numbers and made five of his six Pro Bowls.
 
In NFL history, only three kickers have played in more postseason wins with the same team than Akers — Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots has played in 15, Adam Vinatieri played in 13 for the Patriots and Roy Gerela of the 1970s Steelers played in 11.
 
"The one thing about Philly fans, they’re so passionate, and it was an honor to play for them as long as I did," Akers said. "They go to the games when we're not doing well. They let you hear it but they're always going to be there. And when you're doing well? This is the greatest city to be around when you're playing well, and guys who don’t get a chance to experience that, it’s a shame."
 
Akers ranks 12th in NFL history with 1,721 points and 11th in history with 386 total field goals. He's the No. 2 scorer in NFL postseason history with 175 points, 59 fewer than Vinatieri.
 
He's also 12th in NFL history with 27 field goals over 50 yards.
 
And now he joins five former teammates — Dawkins, McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Westbrook and Troy Vincent — along with Jim Johnson as the seventh representative of the Andy Reid Eagles in the team's Hall of Fame.
 
“When Mr. Lurie (owner Jeffrey Lurie) called me, I have to say that I was shocked but humbled just because I have so much gratitude for what the Eagles did for me," Akers said.
 
"They gave me the opportunity when the Redskins and Panthers and Falcons had not been successful for me. My first kickoff in the NFL went 90 yards for a touchdown the opposite way, and I missed a 49-yarder, then got cut two days later.
 
"It's unbelievable how quickly those 12 years went with the Eagles. Such great runs with so many wonderful players and great coaches, a lot of who were very successful after moving on from the Eagles."
 
Akers learned he had been selected to the Hall of Fame Wednesday night during the Taking Flight for Autism fundraiser at the Linc.
 
"Obviously the one thing that sticks with me is the last time I played in an Eagles uniform is not a day I'd like to remember (2010 playoff loss to the Packers)," he said.
 
"So it was a little surreal being back on the stage at the Linc where a lot of other positive memories happened. Looking back on my career, just overwhelmed with gratitude, to be honest with you."

David Akers to be inducted into Eagles Hall of Fame on Oct. 23

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David Akers to be inducted into Eagles Hall of Fame on Oct. 23

Kicker David Akers, who played in more games and scored more points than anybody in Eagles history, will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame at halftime of the Eagles-Redskins game on Oct. 23 at the Linc.

Akers spent the 1999 through 2010 seasons with the Eagles and played in 188 games, breaking the franchise record of his longtime teammate and close friend Brian Dawkins, who played in 183 from 1996 through 2008.

Akers scored a franchise-record 1,323 points as an Eagle — nobody else has scored more than 900. He’s one of four Eagles to play in all 10 playoff wins over the last 20 years, along with Dawkins, Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. Those four played in more than half of the postseason wins in Eagles history (10 of 19).

“David Akers embodies everything we look for in a player both on and off the field,” Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said in a statement released by the team Wednesday. “He was talented, reliable, tough, and of course, clutch.

"He played a major role in the success of this franchise during his time here, but he also loved this city and our fans and he made a tremendous impact in the community. We are proud to enshrine him alongside the greatest figures in Eagles history.”

Akers, who retired following the 2013 season after 12 years with the Eagles, two years with the 49ers and one with the Lions, ranks 12th in NFL history with 1,721 total points and 11th with 386 total field goals.

He made 27 of 50 career attempts from 50 yards and beyond and made 81 percent of his attempts overall.

From 2001 through 2010, Akers made the Pro Bowl team five times. Only six players in Eagles history have made more Pro Bowls — Hall of Famers Chuck Bednarik, Reggie White and Pete Pihos, plus Dawkins, Jason Peters and Donovan McNabb. 

Akers added a sixth Pro Bowl with the 49ers. His six total Pro Bowls are second most in NFL history by a kicker, one fewer than Morten Anderson made with the Saints and Falcons from 1985 through 1995.

Only 11 undrafted players in NFL history have made more Pro Bowls than Akers, and all but three are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Peters, Antonio Gates and Jay Hilgenberg.

Akers will become the 50th member of the Eagles Hall of Fame but the first kicker and also the first player whose primary role was on special teams.

Akers will also become the seventh coach or player from the Andy Reid Eagles that reached five NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl from 2001 through 2008 to be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame, joining Dawkins, McNabb, Jeremiah Trotter, Troy Vincent and Brian Westbrook, plus legendary defensive coordinator Jim Johnson. 

Jeremiah Trotter, Merrill Reese set to be inducted into Eagles Hall of Fame

Jeremiah Trotter, Merrill Reese set to be inducted into Eagles Hall of Fame

An All-Pro middle linebacker and the voice synonymous with Eagles football for the past 40 years are set to be enshrined among the organization’s all-time greats.

Jeremiah Trotter and Merrill Reese will be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame during halftime of the Eagles' Monday night showdown with the Packers at the Linc.

Trotter and Resse will be the 42nd and 43rd members of the organization to receive the honor.

“This is the greatest honor that I’ve ever received,” Reese said. “It’s amazing to be honored for something that you do, that you love so much, that’s really such a pleasure. There’s nothing I’d rather do than broadcast an Eagles football game. Being inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame is the ultimate. There’s nothing that I would consider a greater honor.”

“To be inducted into the Eagles' Hall with all the other greats means a lot to me,” Trotter said. “I’m excited for my family. Excited for the fans. We got the greatest fans in the National Football League. That’s one of the things I miss the most. Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the sea of green.”

Trotter had three separate stints in Philadelphia that spanned eight of the 10 years he played in the National Football League. A third-round pick of the Eagles out of Stephen F. Austin University back in 1998, Trotter was an All-Pro by his third season in the league when he totaled 100 tackles during the 2000 campaign. 

After signing with the Redskins in 2002, Trotter returned to Philadelphia in 2004 and began his second stint with the Eagles just as his first one ended - with two consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. In his first season back in midnight green, the Axe Man anchored a defense that helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl in 2004.

Trotter ranks eighth on the franchise’s all-time total tackle list with 564 stops. Trotter will be the fourth linebacker to be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame, joining Chuck Bednarik, Maxie Baughan and Bill Bergey.

“On a personal goal, this is up there,” Trotter said of the induction. “Just shows all the hard work you put in and people recognize it and reward you for it. I’m excited to see all my ex-teammates because I talked to those guys this summer and told them they’re just as big a part of this as I am. Because without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

More than his production, it was the passion that Trotter played the game with that left a lasting impression on the people who watched him lead the Eagles’ defense for the better part of his eight seasons in Philadelphia.  

“He meant everything," Reese said of his fellow inductee. "Jeremiah Trotter was a great linebacker. As you can look at Jeremiah and realize he had great size, more size than most of the linebackers today, and he was a powerful man. He played the game with a passion. … He wanted to drive himself to be the best, to win, to do everything he could to help this team on the field and off the field. He was a great leader, he was an emotional player, and he was also a tremendously sound linebacker. … He is really somebody who's made it because, No. 1, his ability, but that great heart and that great desire to be great.”

For as durable as Trotter was during his playing career, Reese has been even more persistent in the broadcast booth. Now in his 40th season as the radio voice of the Eagles, Reese hasn’t missed out on calling a single game.

The 74-year-old broadcaster has called countless Eagles games since the start of the 1977 season, but said his favorite was 2010's “Miracle at the Meadowlands II," which saw the Eagles wipe away a 31-10 fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Giants on a walk-off punt return by DeSean Jackson.

Reese’s enthusiasm and attention to detail that were beaming through the radio during the Eagles’ improbable comeback against the Giants are qualities that are present with all of his calls, regardless of the magnitude or quality of game.

"You can listen to Merrill on the radio and he'll make you feel like you're at the game,” Trotter said. “Attention to detail. Whenever I'm traveling and I listen to the game on the radio, I love listening to Merrill. His voice, man, that's all I know. He's the only guy I know as the voice of the Eagles. From the day I got here, every highlight you see, you'll hear his voice and it's distinct. And when he speaks, you know exactly who it is. When I found out I was going in with Merrill, I was ecstatic.”

When Reese comes down from the broadcast booth to the field during halftime Monday night, he’ll become the first broadcaster to be inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame.

And while he’s acknowledging that moment will be special, he’s treating this game just like any other.

“I don’t think about it,” Reese said of the halftime ceremony. “I think about what I have to do to get ready to do a broadcast with the Green Bay Packers tomorrow with all the numbers, the formations and all that I have to do to get ready to be a good broadcaster tomorrow night. And when I go down on the field at halftime, it will be a great moment. But whatever that feeling is, I’ll feel it then. I don’t think about it now.”