Most of Daryl Worley’s new teammates know what it’s like to parade on Broad Street. Only Worley knows what it’s like to grow up near Broad Street.
Worley, the 23-year-old cornerback the Eagles acquired in a trade from Carolina last week, was raised around Broad Street and Erie Avenue in North Philadelphia, near Temple University Hospital. He attended Penn Charter before going to West Virginia and becoming a 2016 third-round pick, starting 25 games for the Panthers in his first two seasons. But last week’s trade back home was personal for Worley, who could become the first Philadelphia native to play in the regular season for the Eagles since running back Kyle Eckel in 2008.
“I don’t know what gave me more joy — coming back home or first initially getting drafted,” Worley said. “That sums it up.”
Worley wasn’t at Max’s Steaks when he heard the news. The trade interrupted a Bahamas vacation. Worley was on a boat cruise when news surfaced that he would join the Eagles in a trade for veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith. There was no cellphone service. When he returned to the port and got his service back, messages flashed across his phone about his new team.
“I thought people were joking,” Worley said.
The trade “shocked” him, but left him so “ecstatic” that he didn’t know who to call first. He chose his father, who watched Worley grow up an Eagles fan. A 9-year-old wearing an Eagles jersey can relate to Worley, who was that age when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl in 2005. His favorite player was Terrell Owens.
“I was a huge Eagles fan coming up,” Worley said. “The Eagles were all I knew for a long time, especially when it came to football.”
Worley played wide receiver and safety at Penn Charter, so it made sense that he was an Owens fan. He first went to West Virginia as an offensive player before converting to cornerback. He won’t just see familiar faces in North Philadelphia, but also in the team’s South Philadelphia facility because of all the West Virginia connections. Wide receiver Shelton Gibson was Worley’s freshman roommate. Running back Wendell Smallwood was one of his closest friends. Cornerback Rasul Douglas shared a position room with Worley and succeeded Worley in the starting lineup when Worley went to the NFL.
Worley joins a crowded cornerback depth chart full of young players, and he’ll compete for playing time on a roster that returns Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones, and Douglas. Even though he’s entering his third season, Worley just turned 23 last month. He is younger now than Carson Wentz was when the Eagles drafted him. That should indicate there’s still room for the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Worley to develop. He has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
His hometown background might make him a good story, but Worley should also know the fans will only enjoy it if he holds his coverage. Worley’s playing time waned in November before picking up again later in the season. It’s rare for a team to part with a young starting cornerback, and Worley said he does not know why he was traded for Torrey Smith. There’s clearly talent to hone — Worley was the 77th overall pick in 2016 and started as a rookie — but Worley said a review of his 2017 game film reinforced the need for consistency.
“I thought things were inconsistent when it came to my play,” Worley said. “But as the season went on, I was able to make more plays and be able to change things down the stretch.”
He doesn’t have a problem finding the ball in the air. Worley has three career interceptions and 19 pass deflections. He attributes those skills to his background as a wide receiver. Worley mostly played off-coverage with the Panthers and spent his time as an outside cornerback, but he said he’s willing to adjust to whatever the Eagles ask of him. The Eagles return both starters on the outside and must replace Patrick Robinson in the slot. They could also use help with depth at safety, where Worley’s size and skill set might make him a potential candidate to fill a hybrid role.
There are sometimes pitfalls for a professional athlete returning home, where there is more outside demand for a player’s time and a bigger spotlight than there would be playing elsewhere. Worley said he has a support system that will allow him to deal with the local burden.
But when he plays his first game in an Eagles uniform seven miles down Broad Street from where he was raised, it will have a different meaning than it would for someone requiring a map when joining the team.
“We all take our jobs seriously to a certain extent,” Worley said, “but at the same time, with me having such a great connection … coming from the actual city, it definitely means a lot more to me.”
Brian Dawkins chose former Eagles teammate Troy Vincent as his presenter for August’s Hall of Fame enshrinement. Dawkins and Vincent played together from 1996 through 2003.