Leodis McKelvin rarely walks from drill to drill. He runs, bounces, dances.
Every day during training camp, he competes with the loud confidence of a perennial Pro Bowler in the prime of his career. It’s just that his resume doesn’t match.
Once the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft, McKelvin is now 30 years old and will turn 31 before the Eagles play the Cleveland Browns in their Week 1 opener. He’s the only clear-cut starting cornerback on the team, but he’s started double digit games just twice in eight NFL seasons.
Why hasn’t he ever fulfilled his potential?
“Injuries,” McKelvin said flatly after Saturday’s practice, the first in pads this training camp. “That’s the only thing I can say that stopped me from being in the starting lineup. Injuries. I’ve been playing good football the last couple years. Injuries is the only thing that’s slowing me down.
“As far as me being a corner in this league, a starter in the league, most definitely I can be a starter in this league.”
The Eagles are banking on it.
After McKelvin, the Eagles have a group of corners that include Nolan Carroll, Eric Rowe, Ron Brooks, Jalen Mills and others. None of them – McKelvin included – are sure things.
But the former first-round pick is probably somewhat right about those injuries, which read like a laundry list.
In his second NFL season in 2009, he played and started just three games before fracturing his fibula. In 2013, he had a lingering hamstring injury and needed hip surgery after the season. In 2014, he was playing at a Pro Bowl level before breaking his ankle and needing surgery. Last year, he started the season on the non-football injury list after re-hurting his ankle during the offseason.
Injury after injury after injury.
“It’s been like every year, I’ve been going through nicks and bruises and stuff like that,” McKelvin said. “It’s been an uphill battle, competing for a starting spot. Sometimes I might not make it through a season, but as far as me being out there and competing and starting, I have been for the past couple years.
“You just have to get up and do it again. Just keep your body moving. As long as I can bounce back and be able to play in this league.”
This offseason, just after trading Byron Maxwell to the Dolphins, the Eagles went out and signed McKelvin to a two-year deal. He spent his first eight years in the league with the Bills, who cut him in March.
During the spring and training camp, McKelvin has been the one constant as a starting cornerback. Carroll, Brooks, Rowe and Mills are all competing for the second and slot jobs.
McKelvin will turn 31 on Sept. 4, and it’s rare that the Eagles rely on a cornerback this old. In fact, they’ve had just nine corners 31 or older start double digit games in team history. The last was Nnamdi Asomugha in 2012.
The Eagles certainly hope McKelvin works out better than Asomugha did.
And there’s some reason to think he will. In 2014, before breaking his ankle, McKelvin had four interceptions and was playing the best football of his career under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Signing McKelvin this offseason has reunited the pair in Philly.
Why does Schwartz think McKelvin never became a perennial starter in the league?
“Well, it took him a little while to get started,” Schwartz said. “I thought he really came on to his own the year before I got to Buffalo, . He had a really good year, and the year I was there he was playing at a Pro Bowl level I thought until he broke his leg, ankle, whatever it was in the Miami game. So, what happened before that, I really can't speak to.
“Last year was an injury thing. He started on the PUP, and then when they came out -- that was a team that was blessed with a lot of corners. Just a fact of where they've been the last couple years. But he's responded well here. He's a veteran player.”
As a veteran player and as a veteran of Schwartz’s defense, plenty of McKelvin’s new teammates have been picking his brain and he’s happy to deliver the knowledge.
McKelvin is the oldest defensive player on the roster, but you’d never know it by watching practice, with the bouncing and the dancing. He explained that football is still fun for him, so he tries to enjoy himself.
It also shows off his confidence, despite his unfulfilled potential.
“Most definitely it’s a confidence thing,” he said. “You have a little swag, dance around and do what you need to do. It’s all about me just keeping my confidence up and making sure I stay focused on my task.”