The Soul Of Philadelphia: The Story Of Donovan McNabb

Bleacher Report Senior Writer INovember 18, 2008


Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has overcome adversity to become great. The 31 (32 next week) quarterback is an amazing scrambler, has a better arm, and has even been to a Super Bowl. But few know how he landed there.

Donovan Jamal McNabb was born on November 25, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents gave birth to Donovan and he would end up being their last child. The McNabb's lived in the intimidating South Side Chicago projects.

But, they were an up-and-coming family and were destined for success. His father, Sam, was an electrical engineer and motivated Donovan by preaching hard work and honesty. His mother, Wilma, was a nurse who was always there for her children and always lent a helping hand to her kids.

Tired of the distraction of the ghetto, the McNabbs moved to Dolton—a suburb in Chicago, and a much, much safer neighborhood. So, luckily for Donovan, he never had to experience the hardships of the ghetto as a teen—as the family moved there in 1984, when he was just eight. Of course, the McNabbs would have to get used to race relations. They were the only African American family on the block.

Donovan was not very popular in school. In order to get attention, he became a class clown. He was involved in sports, but did not take it very seriously. He started in his teenage years. Originally, his mother was against it. Donovan, unlike now, was very small, and his mother was afraid he would get torn a new one.

As a seventh grader, McNabb played for a Pee Wee team as a quarterback (like you'd imagine). McNabb has never played another position but quarterback! At 14, he enrolled at Mount Carmel High, a Catholic school. McNabb became quickly involved in sports.

He played basketball and football, alongside his brother and future NBA player Antoine Walker. As a senior, he had an amazing year on the football field. He caught attention from Tom Osborne's Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, he wanted to play for a lesser-known program, so he enrolled at Syracuse University.

As a freshman, alongside wide receiver Marvin Harrison, McNabb won Big East Rookie of the Year, passing for 2,300 yards, throwing 19 touchdowns, rushing for 526 yards, and compiling a 162.3 quarterback rating. McNabb topped it the next year, throwing for 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns. His 2,982 total yards set a school record, and he was named Big East Player of the Year.

The next year, he won his third Big East Player of the Year Award in as many seasons, passing for 2,134 yards and 22 touchdowns. He figured he made his mark in college, so he entered the NFL Draft. When he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, he was actually booed. Why?

The Eagles badly wanted Ricky Williams. I know he's not right now, but Andy Reid was right then.

In 1999, the Eagles were 5-11. McNabb didn't start and was good for a rookie, but Philly fans were questioning Reid. McNabb was 2-4 as a starter, had a 49.1 completion percentage, and had a very average TD-INT ratio at 8-7.

He responded in 2000. He led the Eagles to 11-5 and had over 3,000 yards and threw 21 touchdown passes. He also ran for 629 yards and scored six touchdowns. Philadelphia also made the playoffs that year. McNabb led them to a 21-3 win over Tampa Bay in the first round, but lost to the Giants 20-10 in the Divisional Round.

"D-Nabb" led them to an 11-5 finish the next year, as he threw for 3,233 yards, 25 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. He led Philly to the NFC Championship, but they fell to St. Louis, 29-24.

Can you imagine St. Louis and Philly in the NFC Championship this year?

In 2002, he played just ten games, and went 7-3 as a starter. He was 211-of-361 with 2,289 yards, 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions. AJ Feeley and Koy Detmer did just as well though, going a combined 5-1. However, the Eagles lost to Atlanta 27-10 in the playoffs.

He led the Eagles to a 12-4 record the next year and another Conference Championship Game loss. It was his last 16 game season. It was also a good one, as he had 3,216 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The next two years, the Eagles were 13-3 and 13-2 when Donovan started. I'm noticing that when he plays, the Eagles win. Unfortunately, the Eagles lost to New England in the Super Bowl, 24-21.

In the game, McNabb was 30-for-51 with 357 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. McNabb had his best year, throwing for 3,875 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

2005 was an incredibly disappointing year for the Eagles, and especially for McNabb. They were just 4-5 with McNabb and a very unsatisfying 6-10. McNabb had 2,507 yards and nine picks.

2006, 2007, and this year have been very unsatisfying years. The Eagles have gone 18-15-1 with McNabb under center and 23-18-1 overall.

But this is the stuff of legend.