There was a buzz at the Wheel & Tire Exchange in Charlotte, North Carolina on Monday morning.
Because the afternoon before, they watched their friend and former employee get back to playing football on the biggest stage there is. While many fans in Philadelphia were wondering, “Who the heck is No. 41, Kevon Seymour?” his buddies in Charlotte were very proud.
They knew all about the incredible journey to that point.
“Oh, 100 percent, just to know he was back on the field in pads, doing what he loves,” Jeremy Logsdon of the Wheel & Tire Exchange said to NBC Sports Philadelphia by phone on Thursday. “We were all rooting for him. He had a great game. It was good to see him doing what he loves.”
When Seymour was thrust into action on Sunday against the Saints, it was his first NFL appearance since the 2017 season. The once-promising draft pick out of USC had his career derailed by injuries and he has had to climb his way back into the NFL, working out at Planet Fitness, taking a job at a tire store, whatever it took. And on Sunday, he finally made it back.
And for the most part, Seymour played pretty well on his 35 defensive snaps Sunday. But there was that one. He got beat on a touchdown by Emmanuel Sanders in the third quarter on a play where Logsdon was quick to point out Seymour had no help. That’s a tough ask.
“He’ll bounce back,” Logsdon said. “I’m sure he’s probably beating himself up right now, like, ‘That ain’t gonna happen again.’”
Bouncing back is sort of Seymour’s specialty.
“It’s been a journey,” Seymour said on Thursday. “I just want to give thanks to God just for giving me the opportunity. I was at a low, hit rock bottom. But I’m from rock bottom so to hit rock bottom, it was nothing new.”
Hitting rock bottom
So how did Seymour hit rock bottom?
Well, it started with a high. Seymour was a true success story, a kid who worked his way out of the projects, went to USC and was drafted in the sixth round. He played 15 games as a rookie with the Bills and was then traded to Carolina where he played in all 16 games in 2017 and even started two.
Things were going well until the injuries hit.
In 2018, Seymour needed double shoulder surgery and missed the season. In 2019, he hurt his hamstring in training camp, then had wrist surgery. The Panthers cut him on Sept. 1, 2019 and he spent the entire season away from football.
Last year was a tough one for Seymour, who said it was hard to even watch football games. But he leaned on those closest to him.
“I never lost faith and always kept believing in myself,” he said. “I felt like having the right mindset, knowing that things are going to be OK even when they’re not. That’s faith. Believing when you can’t even see. That’s how I went about things. I kept my head held high and I just attacked every day like it was my last. I had no idea when the opportunity was going to come but I knew when it came, I was going to take advantage of it. I always like to say God is in control, but I was taking control of every situation, every day, every moment so when my opportunity came, I could capitalize.”
Seymour, 27, has been with his wife for over 10 years and they have three children together, a 4-year-old daughter named Karsyn, a 2-year-old daughter named Kendall and a 9-month-old boy named Kruz.
Seymour was planning on moving his family back to his home state of California, but then the pandemic hit and they decided to stay in Charlotte. As he got further away from his injuries, he needed to work out so he got a membership to the local Planet Fitness. But Seymour outgrew his new digs and moved on to LA Fitness. After all, they had a sauna and a pool.
It was the first time in his life that Seymour had to pay for a gym membership. He used to work out at his high school, then USC and then NFL facilities. For the first time in his adult life, he wasn’t really a football player.
“I had to do something,” he said.
Seymour also began working with a local coach named Zap Hawkins, whom Seymour’s wife found on an app called Coach Up. Hawkins worked with Seymour on keeping his footwork fresh. Whatever it took.
Spinning his wheels
During his year away from football, Seymour also took a job at the Wheel & Tire Exchange. As a car enthusiast, Seymour already knew Logsdon, Greg Mitchell, A.J. Schlub and others from spending time at the shop with his teammates when Seymour was still with the Panthers. Logsdon said Seymour was always trying to work on his Dodge SRT Hellcat. So it was a natural fit when Seymour didn’t have football anymore and needed a job.
Wheel & Tire Exchange is a shop that customizes cars, lifts and lowers trucks and works on some performance stuff. So when a client would come in and want to get some work done, Seymour was one of the guys who would help them figure out what to do. Seymour describes himself as a people person and Logsdon said Seymour was somewhat of a “visionary” when it comes to knowing how a car should look.
What started as a friendship based on a shared love of cars grew between Seymour and the guys at the shop. They got to know him really well during the year he worked there.
“He was really a pleasure to have around due to authenticity,” Logsdon said. “There are so many unauthentic people, man, people that put on a mask or a shell and you don’t really get to know as a person. But he’s a big family guy, loves his kids, spent all the time he could with his family. Enjoyed that off time with his young family. He’s a great guy.”
Seymour said the time he spent there allowed him to clear his head and focus on a passion of his that wasn’t football. He said it didn’t even really feel like work.
“He had some tough days with it,” Logsdon said. “As you’d think anybody coming out of college who had a great college career at a well-renowned school and coming into the league and having such a good start and then getting picked up with the Panthers and then catching those unforeseen injuries. It just happened. But I watched him grow too and grow past it, man. He was always upbeat about it. He was always, ‘Hey, put me on the field, get me in some pads.’”
Seen rock bottom before
When Seymour said he had seen rock bottom before, he was talking about his childhood. He was raised in a home with plenty of love but not a lot of money.
Seymour grew up in Section 8 housing in Pasadena and his mother worked hard as a single mother to provide for her children. But as Kevon remembered, she would leave the house every morning at 6 a.m. to travel to her job in Hollywood and wouldn’t make it home until 7 or 8 at night thanks to LA traffic.
So as Seymour tries to fulfill his NFL dream, it’s not just about him. He said he’s trying to build “generational wealth” for his family. He wants to get his wife out of debt with her student loans. He wants to provide his kids with a lifestyle he never had.
And even though he invested wisely from earlier in his career, for a year, there were no NFL checks coming.
“All that stuff was going through my head during that time,” Seymour said. “Because this is my first time actually like sitting down, being home and it was up to me to continue my training. I could have just gave up. I got my degree, me and my wife, we have our degrees. I could have went a different route, it’s over, no hope the way this year’s going. But I always kept faith and I just kept on believing and God gave me the opportunity and I just took advantage of it.”
During that time away from football, there was a brief thought that maybe Seymour would simply fall back on his communications degree from USC and try to make a living another way. But that thought was short-lived. After all, he wasn’t that far from reaching the threshold to earn an NFL pension.
Never give up
Seymour had workouts with two other teams but when the Eagles called, he was excited; he had talked to them earlier in the year. Eventually, the Eagles signed him to their practice squad on Dec. 2 but things aren’t that easy in this COVID-19 world.
Because all new players have to pass through COVID-19 protocols, Seymour spent five days by himself waiting to get cleared before he could work out for the Birds. Every day during that week, he would crank up the heat in his hotel room and start jumping rope to make sure he stayed in shape.
Not long after the Eagles signed him, they promoted him to the active roster on Dec. 12. And the next day, he ended up playing 35 defensive snaps against one of the top teams in the NFC.
It’s been a crazy year. But Seymour has been endearing himself to his new teammates. Jalen Mills said Seymour is always asking questions.
“When you see that in a guy who — he told me he’s been out of football for two years — that lets you know that he’s not satisfied with just being here,” Mills said. “He’s a guy who wants to keep elevating his game.”
And as the Eagles prepare to face the Cardinals this weekend, they’re still dealing with several injuries in their secondary. They might need to call on Seymour again.
He’ll be ready.
And so will the guys down in North Carolina.
“He’s worthy of it, man,” Logsdon said. “I hope he does really well. He’s got our full support on his future and what he’s going to bring to Philly. We’re excited to watch some games.”
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