On September 19, Donovan McNabb will officially retire as an Eagle and will be honored that night at halftime of the team’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Earlier this month, I sat down with the former Eagles quarterback to discuss his career. The entire interview will appear tomorrow in the Daily News and on phillydailynews.com. Here are a few excerpts:
(Note: I’m doing an Eagles/NFL chat Thursday at 11 a.m. on philly.com and phillydailynews.com. Feel free to ask McNabb-related questions, including his Hall of Fame chances, after you’ve read the interview)
Q: Andy Reid has said one of the reasons he drafted you in ’99 over Daunte Culpepper and Akili Smith and Cade McNown was that he felt you were wired right for Philadelphia. That you could handle the intense fan and media scrutiny that goes with being the starting quarterback in this town. Agree?
A: “I think I was. He understood that I wouldn’t let anything bother me. Anything could happen around me, and as long as everybody was OK, I was fine. I mean, I was introduced to it at the draft when they booed me. It was funny. I started laughing. I was like, did they just boo me? I had never seen or heard of anybody getting booed when they got drafted. It was an awakening. After that, it was, I’m just going to go out and prove a point every time. I never let anything get up under my skin. I think that’s the thing that bothered people the most. That I kept smiling, kept moving.’’
Q: Any concerns that you might hear some boos when they honor you in September?
A: “I truly wouldn’t care. To me, it’s an appreciation for the people who truly respected what I did. I’ve always lived by the motto that you can’t please everyone. So, for me, if I get booed, it wouldn’t be anything new. If they cheer, that would be great. Obviously I’ll be out there with my family and the teammates I played with. If there are any boos, I will smile.
“I’ve always heard that they appreciate you (more) when you’re gone. It’s funny. Flying out here, I stopped in Chicago to visit my family. I ran into (former Phillie) Jim Thome in the airport. We were talking about playing in Philly. He asked me how I dealt with it because he said it was really hard for him. I said I just let it run right down my back. I never let it bother me. I told him I loved the game too much to let it affect what I was doing. All the time I put in preparing, I didn’t let it bother me.”
Q: What’s your opinion of Philly fans?
A: “I thought they were true fans who loved the Eagles and loved the game of football. Opinionated, for sure. But they loved their teams. They just want to see winners. And over the years, we gave them that. But after a while, the wins didn’t become enough. It became all about winning the Super Bowl, which was understandable. That was the same attitude we went in with as players after we won the NFC Championship (in ’04). We felt we needed to win a Super Bowl. And that didn’t happen.’’
Q: What did Andy say to you after they traded you?
A: “To me, it felt like his hands were tied. I was here (in Philadelphia) until school got out (that year). So I was around and working out. I said, what’s going on? Somebody just say something or tell me you’re listening to (offers from) other teams. I said I’ve been here long enough that you can at least give me that kind of respect. He said, well what do you want to do? I said, what do I want to do? I told you from the very beginning that I want to retire here.
“When I got traded, I talked to him on the phone. He asked me, how I was doing with all of this. I said, I don’t know what to think to be honest with you. I said, I was asleep when you called me (to inform him he was traded). Then my dad tells me Fletcher (Smith, his formeagent) called him. And I look on the TV and see that I’ve been traded. What am I supposed to think when you guys don’t talk to me and then try to trade me to Oakland or Buffalo?
I asked him one question. Who made the move. Was it your move or somebody else’s? He kind of hemmed and hawed, and I said, say no more.’’
Q: You pushed for the Eagles to sign Michael Vick after he got out of prison in ’09. What are your thoughts on him?
“I just think right now he’s trying too hard to fit in. it’s like somebody got his ear and tried to tell him this is what Don didn’t do. You’ve got to relate to the fans and the African- Americans in Philadelphia. Because they looked at Don differently. He’s doing too much. And he’s worrying too much. When you start focusing on pleasing people on the outside, it takes away what you’re doing out on the field.’’