It’s been clear for a while just how special the relationship is between Miles Sanders and Duce Staley.
Two Eagles second-round running backs, separated by 22 years, one the teacher, one the student.
Sanders? We’re seeing him blossom into a superstar right in front of our eyes.
And Sunday evening, after his second straight monster game, Sanders opened up about how much Staley has meant to him not just as a coach but as a mentor.
“I never had that father figure in my life,” Sanders said. “Duce looks at me like I’m his little brother. I never had that. I never had anybody to really push me. I always had my mom. Moms can’t really do both when it comes to stuff like that. To have someone like Duce pushing me and believing in me and knowing what I can do, that’s meant a lot. Especially because he went through the same stuff I went through.”
Sanders on Sunday became the first Eagle rookie in 62 years with 75 yards both rushing and receiving in the Eagles’ massive win over the Cowboys.
He increased his season total to 1,276 scrimmage yards, becoming only the eighth rookie in NFL history with 750 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards.
A rookie’s relationship with his position coach is huge, and Staley and Sanders first bonded back in February.
“It happened right away,” Sanders said. “When we met at the Combine, I knew. I already knew. That’s the type of coach I want.”
Staley wanted the Eagles to draft Sanders from the get-go, and as soon as they did he began working Sanders harder than he’s ever worked.
Staley is a tough coach, and that’s exactly what Sanders needed, exactly what he wanted.
“I’ve got so much respect for him and I appreciate him so much for just pushing me,” Sanders said. “I’m playing my best football right now. I still have a long way to go but he’s definitely bringing a lot out of me and I appreciate him so much for that.”
I asked Sanders if he was concerned when he first started working with the hard-driving Staley if it would be too much, if he would be too demanding.
His answer was perfect: “Ain’t no such thing as working too hard.”
Sanders said he feels like Staley has helped him the most as a runner, which is surprising considering how gifted a receiver Staley was and how far Sanders has come in that area.
“Running game,” he said. “Definitely running game. I was struggling with that a lot and just kept grinding, man.”
After averaging 3.5 yards per carry in his first seven games, Sanders is averaging 5.1 the last eight, 4th-highest in the league during that span.
He’s the only player in the NFL with at least four runs and four receptions of 30 yards.
It’s been a historic season for Sanders, and Staley has been there every step of the way.
“There’s a lot of good running back coaches,” Sanders said. “But Duce, I don’t think people don’t know how good a teacher he is.”
Staley was one heck of a player with the Eagles. He’s still 5th in franchise history in rushing, 16 years after he last played here.
Turns out he may be even a better coach.