Ex-player: April hire huge for Eagles

Buffalo Bills special teams coach Bobby April, left, will take over as the Eagles special teams coach. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

If you Google the name of new Eagles special teams coach Bobby April, one of the more insightful links you'll find is a column from Matt Bowen of the National Football Post.

Bowen spent seven years in the NFL and twice had April as his special teams coach - once in St. Louis and again in Buffalo.

When April opted out of his contract with the Bills, Bowen wrote the piece urging teams to go after him.

And they did.

The Eagles flew under the radar, but ended up landing April yesterday to a reported three-year deal.

The beat guys from the Inquirer and Daily News have comments from April's conference call yesterday, but I wanted to get Bowen's take on his former coach.

He was nice enough to answer a few questions via e-mail for me. Here's the Q&A:

Q: You recently called April the “best in the business.” How would you describe his philosophy, and what separated him from the other special teams coaches you played for?

A: I call Bobby the "best in the business" for one because he knows how to connect with players. That is the first key to coaching, and when you coach special teams, you are in charge of such a wide variety of players - almost 40 at a time, and he can connect with each and every one of them. What he does is translate that to the field. Special teams in the NFL is "grunt" work. It isn't glamorous, but he sells the idea that running into the wedge on kickoff is brave, courageous and only allows for the best to do it. He makes you want to sacrifice your body for the team. That is a tough sell for pro athletes, but he gets it done. He is a technician, and he is a great teacher. 

Could easily see Bobby lecturing at the university level in a physics class and making it your favorite class of the day. You want to be in those meetings, and you want to play well and produce for him. Special teams is still based on desire and effort at the pro level. 

Q: Is there a specific area of special teams where April’s units really excel?

A: Fundamentals. Special teams schemes in the NFL are not different from team to team. There are only so many ways to cover a kick, but Bobby teaches the fundamentals better than any coach I have been with. Tackling, getting off blocks, using your hands as weapons. That is why his units are so good, because they are schooled in the little things that make you a better player. 

Q: You described his methods as “unconventional.” Do you have a story you could share from your time as a player under April that demonstrates what you’re talking about?

A: Broom sticks... I always brings this up because we used broom sticks in the offseason to teach leverage, teach how to place our hands and how to block and shed blocks. Every day in the offseason we would be on the field working with broom sticks, using techniques from boxing (we would watch film on championship boxing), etc. ... things you don't find on every team. 

Q: Having played for April, and having played several years in the same division as the Eagles, how do you see him fitting in with the way Andy Reid and the organization operate?

A: I believe that any coach under Andy is going to be successful. Hiring Bobby will be bigger than any free agent or draft pick. We tend to forget that special teams - especially in December and the postseason - win games and set up field position. When your units are near the top of the league, you will win games with the talent Andy has already compiled on that roster.

You can read Matt Bowen on the National Football Post.