Eagles' Andre Dillard went from nearly quitting to 1st-round pick

Eagles' Andre Dillard went from nearly quitting to 1st-round pick

Wayne Maxwell will never forget the look on Andre Dillard’s face. 

It was after Dillard’s junior season in high school when Maxwell, the head coach of the Woodinville High School football team, asked the offensive lineman if he had put together a highlight film to send to colleges. 

Dillard looked shocked. 

“He had no clue what his potential was,” Maxwell said. 

And why would he? Dillard weighed just 215 pounds as a high school junior and just a few years earlier had nearly given up on his football career countless times before it ever really began. 

Getting recruited? Going to college? Playing in the NFL? 

It wasn’t even a pipe dream. It was nowhere on his radar.  

“I think at the time, he was just a regular high school kid,” Maxwell said. “Just getting by day by day, hanging out with friends, trying to catch the eye of the ladies and being a normal teenage boy. I don’t think he, at the time, saw the direction that he had going for him. That was a big eye-opener.”

On the phone Friday morning, Maxwell remembered that story while waiting at his terminal at the Nashville International Airport before his flight out of town. About 13 hours earlier, he watched proudly when Dillard was selected by the Eagles with the 22nd pick in the 2019 draft. Maxwell and Woodinville offensive line coach Mike Monan were guests of Dillard’s at the draft and watched the latest chapter in what has been a pretty incredible story. 

Maxwell got around five or six hours of restless sleep on Thursday night after the celebration died down (Dillard said he got about four), but he was still buzzing off the excitement of seeing Dillard, all grown up, walking across the draft stage. Really, it was a walk that began years ago. 

“He’s had quite a journey,” Maxwell said. “Not like some of these guys going in the first round, being the All-American guy the whole way, big star, all that stuff. He’s really had quite a journey and he’s had things to overcome.”

(Photo: Wayne Maxwell. Pictured: (R to L) Maxwell, Dillard, Monan) 

Thought about quitting 'all the time' 

Truth be told, Dillard didn’t like football all that much when he first started playing in eighth grade. Recently, his mother remembered her son’s inauspicious start in the sport.

“When I first started, I was kind of a wuss,” Dillard said at the combine in February. “I wanted to try football just to say I tried it, and I thought it would make me cooler at school. The first two years, it sucked really bad. I was terrible. But something inside of me said to just keep going, and a switch flipped in me and things started looking up from there.”

But before he got to high school, Dillard thought about quitting “all the time.” 

He said it was discouraging because he came to the sport late and was catching up to his friends, who had been playing much longer. 

Maxwell met Dillard when Dillard was still a student at Leota Middle School. Back then, the high school didn’t have a freshman class, so Dillard’s first year at Woodinville wasn’t until 10th grade. Maxwell was working a couple periods each day at the middle school when someone pointed out Dillard to him. 

Maxwell saw a kid with size and potential, but he was also told Dillard probably wasn’t going to continue playing football — “They didn’t think he had the best experience and didn’t feel confident.” 

Long before Dillard was ever recruited to play in college, Maxwell began his own recruitment, trying to get Dillard to play high school ball for the Falcons. 

Slowly, Maxwell began to build a relationship with the young man and told him more about the program. He told him their goal wasn’t just to make him a better football player, but a better man. Maxwell sold him on the family environment around the team and his new teammates and coaches, especially Monan, were charged with making Dillard feel welcome and comfortable on and off the field. 

On Friday, Dillard credited the high school football staff for coaching him with more positive reinforcement, which was what he needed back then. 

Despite thoughts of quitting, why did Dillard stick with football? 

“I’ve always just had this thing about me where I like to finish what I’ve started,” he said. “I don’t like to leave anything with regrets.” 

Getting to college 

Things began to click for Dillard during his sophomore season, his first in high school, but he still wasn’t on a direct path to the NFL. Far from it. He weighed just 215 pounds as a junior and weighed around 240 when he left high school. 

A big moment in Dillard’s football career happened during a team camp at Eastern Washington University in the spring before his senior season. One drill might have changed his life. In a 1-on-1 board drill, he lined up on a kid named Nick Foerstel from Tumwater High School. Foerstel had already been offered by Eastern Washington. Guess what happened. Dillard fired off the snap and pancaked the kid. 

Eastern Washington’s offensive line coach at the time, Aaron Best, who is now the head coach at EWU offered Dillard on the spot, according to Maxwell. It was the first time Best had ever done that without the head coach’s permission. 

Eventually, though, Dillard committed to Washington State after they came in late and he then cut off the rest of the recruiting process. Dillard’s father, Mitch, played for the Cougars in the 80s, so there was an added level of familiarity and comfort with that school. 

He redshirted at Washington State in 2014 and in his five years in college, he grew from a 240-pound kid into a 315-pound first-round pick. He did it by snacking often, eating late and waking up at 2 a.m. to drink protein shakes. 

Meeting a moose 

Long before Dillard’s football career took him to Nashville, Tennessee, it first took him to Palmer, Alaska. In September of 2013, during his senior year of high school, the Falcons took a trip to the 49th state to face Palmer High School, about 42 miles northeast of Anchorage. It was Dillard’s first ever plane trip and one of his teammates was sure to give him a scare when they hit turbulence during the ride. 

The Falcons won the game against Palmer, 42-7, but one of the highlights of the trip was when the team got to meet a bull moose at a reindeer farm. While some prospects have terrible stories from their past surface on the internet during the draft, here’s a photo of Dillard kissing a moose back in 2013. So scandalous.

(Photo: Wayne Maxwell) 

For a long time, the mild-mannered Dillard would have probably been happy if that’s as far as his football career ever took him. He didn’t know college was a possibility until halfway through his high school career. He didn’t know the NFL was a possibility until halfway through his college career. And even then, he couldn’t believe NFL scouts were interested in him

The kid who once didn’t even like football and constantly thought about quitting hugged the commissioner on a stage in Nashville in front of millions around the world. It really was a long walk. 

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Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael: 'I didn't know if I was good enough'

Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael: 'I didn't know if I was good enough'

Harold Carmichael learned back on Monday that he had finally made it into the Hall of Fame, but for logistical reasons he wasn’t allowed to tell anybody until after the official announcement on Wednesday.
As it happened, on Tuesday night, Harold found himself sitting next to his close friend and long-time coach Dick Vermeil at a dinner at NaBrasa Brazlian Steakhouse in Horsham.
For three hours.

Vermeil had just learned he didn't make it into the Hall of Fame. Carmichael had just learned he had.

And he couldn't say a word.
“It was killing me,” Carmichael said. “We talked about being disappointed that he didn’t get in, but I couldn’t say anything to him. He was promoting Dick Vermeil wines and we had about 160 people and they were asking me if I’d heard anything yet and I would just get off the subject. I really didn’t want to lie to anybody. I just couldn’t say anything about it. It was very, very tough for me. It’s still tough for me right now because I’m still trying to answer a lot of the texts. Got over 400 just in the past 24 hours and phone messages. My mailbox is full. They just gotta have patience. Like I did for 36 years.”
Carmichael’s wait is over.
This fall, he’ll be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame alongside more than 300 other all-time greats.
Carmichael retired after the 1984 season, so he’s been eligible since 1989. Despite ranking 5th in NFL history in receptions when he retired, he was never even a finalist until this year.
“I didn’t know if I deserved to be in there,” Carmichael said Thursday. “I’ve been hearing I should be in there for the past 30-some years. It was not a lock for me. I didn’t know if I was good enough. I tried to do my best, but it was not for me to say I should be in the Hall of Fame. It was for me to try to put the numbers up and try to be the type of person they would want to represent the Hall of Fame.”
From 1973 through 1983, Carmichael led the NFL in yards (8,414), touchdowns (77) and catches (549). 
When he retired after playing two games with the Cowboys in 1984, Carmichael ranked 5th in NFL history in catches, 7th in yards and 7th in TD catches.
Today, 36 years after his last touchdown, Carmichael still ranks 24th in NFL history in TD catches.
This is all from a kid who didn’t get recruited to play major-college football, was a walk-on at Southern University in Baton Rouge and was drafted in the 7th round.
“When I got here, Harold Jackson and Ben Hawkins were the starting receivers,” Carmichael said. “They were veterans and I was trying to learn how to be a football player and questioning whether I could play in the National Football League.”
Now, nearly half a century later, Carmichael has been recognized as one of the greatest of all time. 
He’s only the 8th receiver drafted in the 7th round or later to make it into the Hall of Fame and the first whose career began in the 1970s or later.
Carmichael, 70, said the last 24 hours have been a whirlwind as congratulations have come in from 50 years worth of friends, teammates, coaches and associates.
“My son said to my wife, ‘Mom, I didn’t know so many people loved dad like this,’” Carmichael said.

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Eagle Eye podcast: What’s taking so long, Doug?

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out what’s taking Doug Pederson so long to hire an offensive coordinator. 

Some top names have already found jobs. The guys update the remaining vacancies and speculate about the Eagles’ plan and toss out one new theory. 

They also look back at the biggest lessons from the 2019 season. 

• Coaches are getting hired all over the NFL 
• Updating offensive coordinator opening
• What are the Eagles’ waiting for? 
• Lessons from the 2019 season 
• Will Jordan Howard be back in 2020? 
• Figuring out which DEs are on the bubble 
• Our championship weekend predictions 
• Harold Carmichael is finally Hall-bound
• Which Eagles player is next? 

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