Troy Vincent rode in a taxi on Thursday when he saw the Eagles’ telephone number appear on his cellphone screen. Vincent, who is the NFL’s vice president of player engagement, admitted that his first thought was, "What happened?. He did not receive a text message from coach Andy Reid or others in the organization, and he was worried that there might be an issue with a player. He wondered whether the team him needed for an appearance.
When team chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie said hello, Vincent asked, “Is everything OK?”
Lurie laughed, told Vincent there was no problem and welcomed the former standout cornerback into the franchise’s Hall of Fame. Vincent and long-time team employee Leo Carlin will be inducted at halftime of the Nov. 26 game against the Carolina Panthers, and will join 35 others who had previously been inducted.
“I’m generally not short on words, and I’m typically not comfortable talking about myself, but this is the ultimate honor, especially growing up 18-20 miles from Veterans Stadium,” Vincent said.
Vincent, a Trenton native who attended Pennsbury High School, started his career in Miami before signing with Philadelphia before the 1996 season. He initially questioned the idea of coming to the Eagles because of the troubles that some players have playing in or near their hometown.
"It was the right thing to do,” Vincent said. “It fit. And now…15 years later, I performed.”
Vincent said the Eagles represent the entire Delaware Valley area, and praised the fans he played in front of during autumn Sundays for eight seasons. Before every home game, he and Brian Dawkins would look at each other and say, “Let’s give them what they came here to see.”
He finished seventh on the franchise’s interception list with 28 during his Eagles tenure, and he also forced 10 fumbles and recovered six. When discussing his legacy, Vincent hoped that the defensive backfield he shared with Dawkins, Bobby Taylor and others would be considered the finest in franchise history. He is the first from the group to join the franchise’s Hall of Fame.
“You think about the short list of individuals that have been honored,” Vincent said. “There were a lot of emotions last night. I usually leave the crying for Brian [Dawkins], but it made me think about the three most influential men in my life that I wish they could hear what Jeffrey told me last night. They are my grandfather, Jefferson Vincent, there is James Brontley, who was part of the reason I came back to Philly, and there was Jim Mandela, who was my high school coach. “
Leo Carlin started as a part-time employee for the Eagles in 1960, the year the franchise won the NFL championship. Four years later, he became a full-time employee. Since then, Carlin devoted his professional life to selling Eagles tickets – a task that was once more difficult than it is now.
“It’s not necessarily that there’s a football game going on out there; there’s a marketing game going on out there,” Carlin said Friday at the team’s practice facility. “I used to be in the charge of telling the team whether the game was going to be on TV, based on whether the game was soldout. I would do that every week. Now, most games we’re automatic sellouts for years. But they weren’t all automatic, and consequently, from those days, we don’t need to call anymore. We have a huge waiting list and the popularity has skyrocketed.”
Carlin, the Eagles’ director of ticket client services who will turn 75 by the team’s home opener, was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, and can serve as a de facto team historian. He walks down a hallway in the facility sharing memories of different players throughout the team’s history. He saw the Eagles' popularity tip when the Luries purchased the franchise in 1994.
Carlin was told early Thursday afternoon to expect a call from Lurie and waited six anxious hours, not knowing what the call regarded. He and his wife even took guesses about possible subjects. When he learned that he would enter the Hall of Fame of his employer for more than five decades, Carlin does not remember what he said.
“I must have come out with 150 thank yous, and he was still talking,” Carlin said. “It was one of the greatest phone calls I ever received.”
Reflecting on his career, he is most proud of how the team transitioned from Franklin Field to Veterans Stadium to Lincoln Financial Field. He helped oversee the changes, witnessing a spike in the popularity each time.
“Moving like that was a very tedious thing,” Carlin said, “one of the hardest things I’ve done.”
**For more on Carlin and Vincent, check Saturday’s Inquirer and the Birds’ Eye View.