PHOENIX — Roy Istvan paused for some dramatic effect.
The Eagles’ assistant offensive line coach once played for Jeff Stoutland at Southern Connecticut State in the late 80s before he began his coaching career under Stoutland as a graduate assistant. He knows him better than just about anyone.
So is Stoutland any different now than he was way back then?
“Let’s see that was about 35 years ago,” Istvan said on Monday night. “I was 21 years old. And I would say he was 100 percent the exact same as he is today.”
That’s certainly not a bad thing. Because whatever Stoutland is doing, it’s working. Stoutland is already one of the greatest coaches in Eagles history and is widely regarded as the best offensive line coach in the NFL.
And that’s why it was such a big deal when we found out last week that the Eagles and Stoutland, who arrived in Philly in 2013, reached terms on a contract extension. Keeping Stoutland is a big deal.
On Monday night, as the craziness of the NFL’s Opening Night took center stage at the Footprint Center, NBC Sports Philadelphia chatted for a while with Istvan to figure out what has made Stoutland so incredibly successful.
And Istvan has a good idea.
“He has a way of working with everyone and finding a way to reach everybody because everyone learns different,” Istvan said. “And that’s really what I learned from him, is how to reach people on different levels.
“I think that’s something that you work on as a coach and you learn. I think he went to college to be a teacher and I think he always had that teacher’s mentality. Very strict lesson plans, very detailed day-to-day operation. Knew he was trying to get something across. He would say one thing to one person, another thing to another person, but it would have the same meaning.”
One thing that has struck Istvan since he joined the Eagles in 2019 is the way these NFL offensive linemen have the same affection for Stout as he and his teammates did at Southern Connecticut State.
Stoutland is the type of coach players want to stay in contact with even after they leave him. That speaks volumes.
And Jordan Mailata has a strong theory why that is. He explained that Stout earns unquestioned trust as a coach through his actions. That includes football and beyond.
“The detail he puts into game planning and he puts into technique,” Mailata said on Wednesday, “he also does that to the player as well, making sure that off the field, the player’s mentals are in check. He’s always checking up on you in the offseason, seeing how you’re doing, where you are, what’s new, what’s old. That’s why so many players keep in touch with him. Other than being one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the world, he’s one of the greatest human beings in the world.”
No one knows that better that Istvan.
Istvan coached under Stout for several years at Southern Connecticut State and even after they parted ways, they stayed in touch. And as Stoutland rose up the coaching ranks, working at places like Syracuse, Michigan State, Miami and Alabama, he was always just a phone call away.
Sometimes it was Istvan making the call and sometimes it was Stout. He’d call Istvan and tell him to come to his camp in Michigan State or Alabama. He’d tell him to come and you’re staying at my house and that’s that. Stout was at his wedding.
“He was my coach, he was my mentor and he’s my friend,” Istvan said. “We went through the whole thing.”
While Istvan said Stoutland has always looked out for him, it wasn’t like he was just handed the assistant offensive line coach in 2019.
When that position became available, Stoutland did present Istvan’s name to Doug Pederson but then Istvan had to interview with Pederson, then-OC Mike Groh and Stoutland over the course of two days.
“It wasn’t, ‘Hey buddy, come on over.’ It was a grinder,” Istvan said. “And I met the requirements for what they were looking for at the time.”
Before joining the Eagles for the 2019 season, Istvan was the assistant head coach and OC at Keiser University in Florida. But joining the Eagles and coaching under one of the greatest OL coaches in the world and helping lead the best line in the league could be a huge career boost.
Istvan has aspirations to continue moving up in the coaching world and it won’t be a surprise if some other teams start sniffing around at the guy who is second in command. Istvan said the greatest way he can honor Stoutland is to go be his own coach some day.
Because after Stoutland’s latest contract extension, he isn’t leaving Philly anytime soon.
“I hope he stays forever,” Istvan said. “He’s done great things and he’s part of this place, a great part of it. We’ll see what happens.”
Whatever happens, Stout will still just be a phone call away.
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