Eagles

The story behind new Eagle 'Ironhead' Gallon's unusual nickname

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AP Images/NBC Sports Philadelphia

The story behind new Eagle 'Ironhead' Gallon's unusual nickname

I set out Monday afternoon in the Eagles’ locker room to find new safety Deshawntee Gallon, who was signed just hours before. It’s not always easy to find a new player like that; basically you have to look for a face you haven’t seen before.

It didn’t take long. He was sitting at a pop-up locker without a name plate and with jersey No. 36, which had been vacant. 

“Deshawntee?” I said, questioning whether or not that was him, while also questioning the pronunciation of his name. I was right on both accounts, but asked again if I was getting his name right. He said I was, but shrugged. 

“Everyone calls me Ironhead,” he said. 

About that …

While he was born Deshawntee Gallon, his father Shawn began calling him Ironhead almost immediately. Twenty-four years later, that name has stuck. 

See, Dad was a big fan of former NFL fullback Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, who was a first-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 1988 and went on to play 11 NFL seasons, making a Pro Bowl in 1995. Heyward, the father of Steelers DE Cameron Heyward, died of cancer in 2006. In his New York Times obituary, it says he got his nickname from street football games as a youngster, when he would use his head as a battering ram into defenders. 

“He brought the pain,” Gallon said about his dad’s love for the original Ironhead. “He was a physical player.”

Gallon said he’s seen plenty of film of his Ironhead namesake over the years and understands it’s a lot to live up to. 

“I hear it a lot,” Gallon said. “Every time I introduce myself, that’s what they say. Ironhead, you know you got big shoes to fill.”

The cool thing about the Ironhead nickname is that’s what everyone calls him. It’s not like an additional name; his name is Ironhead Gallon to most people. Like, that’s what they even called him at Georgia Southern over the loudspeaker when he’d make a tackle. And that’s even what his Twitter handle says.

It figures the Eagles would sign a guy named Ironhead the day after I sent out this tweet: 

If I redid this, a guy named Ironhead would clearly go at the top. But I better do it quick because the Eagles have to cut their roster from 90 players down to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday and Ironhead is going to be cut. That’s not a slight; just the situation. 

He has less than a week to get some film and hopefully play in the final preseason game. After that, it’ll be time to look for a new job. Maybe he’ll make a name for himself on Thursday — well, you know what I mean. 

One last thing: I asked Gallon if he had a favorite nickname in sports. There are, of course, plenty. 

“I think I’m going to have to go with myself,” Ironhead said. 

I think I’m going to have to agree. 

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Doug Pederson still confident about season after contracting COVID-19

Doug Pederson still confident about season after contracting COVID-19

Despite testing positive for COVID-19, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is still confident there will be a 2020 NFL season. 

The Eagles are already in an altered training camp and the beginning of the season is still scheduled for Sept. 13 in Washington. 

Pederson says things are still full-steam ahead: 

My confidence hasn’t changed at all. I’m extremely optimistic,” Pederson said on a Zoom call with reporters Monday afternoon. “I feel like we’re going to play. I’m confident that we’re going to play. 

“It’s unfortunate. Like I told my team last night, this virus, it holds no prejudices, right? It doesn’t matter. It can affect any one of us. I’m sure many of you have had family members or loved ones or people you know who have been affected by this virus. That part of it doesn’t matter. It’s just the fact that we’ve got to abide by the protocols that are in place. They’re in place for a reason, our safety. Our building is a great place to be. It is a safe place to be for our players and our coaches and all who are involved. 

“I’m looking forward. It’s full-steam ahead for me. Obviously, I’m itching to get back in the building at some point and be around our players and get these guys ready for a season.

Pederson, 52, informed his team that he tested positive on Sunday night. He is quarantining away from his family in his South Jersey home until he’s allowed to return to the NovaCare Complex. Pederson is asymptomatic and said he’s feeling great. He’ll continue to coach virtually and assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley will handle any in-person head coaching responsibilities. 

According to the NFL’s protocol, Pederson might not miss too much time. He will be allowed to return if either 10 days have passed since his first positive test or five days have passed and he tests negative twice at least 24 hours apart during those five days. The Eagles’ head physician must also sign off on Pederson’s return to the building. So he could theoretically be back at the NovaCare Complex later this week. 

Pederson on Monday noted that he’s lucky he contracted the virus now and not during the season. There’s a chance he might not miss any of the Eagles’ practices. 

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Can the NFL really pull off a football season with COVID-19 lurking?

Can the NFL really pull off a football season with COVID-19 lurking?

The Eagles have three players on the COVID-19 list, they’ve got an all-pro right tackle who tested positive, they have a head coach who’s quarantined at home in South Jersey after testing positive and they’ve got a quarterbacks coach who was sent home because he was in close proximity to the head coach.

And practice hasn’t even started yet.

How do you play football like this?

We would all love to see the NFL find a way to play a 16-game season plus playoffs this fall, but each passing day brings more and more issues and more and more questions and more and more doubt that it can be done.

By all accounts, the Eagles took every imaginable precaution to make the NovaCare Complex incredibly safe, and still Pederson contracted the virus. If he got it inside the building, then obviously even the most strongest safety precautions weren’t enough. And if he got it outside the building, that just shows how risky it is to try to play team sports during a pandemic without a bubble.

We’re still about five weeks from opening day, so presumably Pederson, Lane Johnson, Press Taylor and Nate Gerry will all be back with the team long before that. Of that group, Johnson is the only one we know has tested positive. 

You would hope Matt Stafford and Gardner Minshew, the two starting QBs who’ve landed on the COVID list, would be back by then.

But other head coaches and other starting quarterbacks and other star players are going to test positive. And they’re going to miss games. And with positive tests and opt-outs and practice squad replacements it’s very possible that some NFL teams aren’t going to resemble what we thought they would be a few months ago.

If the season started today, who would the Eagles’ right tackle be? I have no idea. Andre Dillard after last year’s Seattle disaster? Matt Pryor? Prince Tega Wanogho? 

A lot of teams are going to face those sorts of questions if there’s a football season. That’s the reality. It’s inevitable. 

Here’s what I don’t get.

Even if teams keep positive tests down for now with social distancing, masks in the building, Zoom meetings and multiple locker rooms, what happens on Aug. 17?

You can have as many socially distant walkthroughs as you want. But at some point you have to prepare for a football season. 

And that means contact. Lots of it.

What happens when the Eagles start practicing for real on Aug. 17 with full pads and live periods and hitting and blocking and tackling? 

You can’t social distance when you’re in pads running goal-line and short yardage. You basically have 22 guys piling on top of each other play after play. 

Pederson said he expects more live scrimmages at practice this summer to make up for the absence of preseason games. 

How can you safely run full-speed, full-contract scrimmages with players who may have contracted the virus but haven’t yet tested positive? 

And then multiply that once games start and there are 75 plays a game - times 16 games a week? With full contact? Without a bubble? And without instant testing results?

Can this work?

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred threatened to shut down MLB a week into the season because of all the positive tests. 

The NFL faces the same challenges as MLB with larger rosters and infinitely more contact.

We’ll have a month between the start of live practice on Aug. 18 and opening day on Sept. 13.

If the positive tests are few and far between two weeks into padded practices, then it’s full speed ahead, let’s try to have an NFL season.

If this thing spirals out of control by late August, then it’s time to pull the plug.

 

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