McNabb, Donovan 1976–
Donovan McNabb 1976–
Professional football player
Growing up near Chicago and idolizing local football legends, Donovan McNabb was a fan of the game from a young age. Playing in pickup and Pop Warner League games, McNabb built upon his football prowess in high school, where he developed as a star player. Later he honed his skills as a phenomenal college quarterback, and was then selected as a NFL first-round draft pick. By age 22, McNabb was a quarterback and team leader with the Philadelphia Eagles
Born in Chicago on November 26, 1976 to Wilma and Samuel McNabb, Donovan McNabb and his older brother, Sean, grew up in the nearby suburb of Dolton, Illinois. McNabb began playing football when he was in seventh grade and quickly learned how to avoid taking hits on the field. “At that age, you try to use a lot of juke moves because you don’t want to be hit as a young child, playing football for the first time,” McNabb said on the NFL Under the Helmet website. “You watched so many big hits on TV, you don’t want to be one of them. You make a lot of moves and see if you can avoid some people. Try to limit it to as few hits as you can.”
At Mt. Carmel High School, where McNabb was a star athlete, he was surrounded by immense talent. Two of his classmates were future NFL standout Simeon Rice and Antoine Walker of the NBA. In high school, McNabb was a prep All-America selection and was also named Chicago Defender News player of the year. He also excelled on the basketball court.
McNabb was recruited by, and eventually attended, Syracuse University. He developed into one of the most decorated athletes in the school’s history. In addition to being a backup guard on the school’s 1995-96 and 1996-97 basketball teams, McNabb excelled on the football field. The team’s captain in 1998, McNabb was a three-time Big East Conference offensive player of the year and was also a four-time, first-team selection, becoming the first player to earn such honors. In 1995 he was named Big East rookie of the year. By the time he left, McNabb held career records for total offense (9,950 yards) and career touchdowns (77), was named Most Valuable Player of the 1996 Gator Bowl, and chosen as the Big East player of the year in 1998 by Football News.
Such a record paid off with enormous rewards. In the NFL’s 1999 draft, McNabb was the second pick overall, selected by the Philadelphia Eagles. And while being drafted by an NFL is a dream come true for any
Born on September 25, 1976; son of Samuel and Wilma McNabb, Education: Syracuse University, degree in speech communications, 1998,
Career: Professional football player. Philadelphia Eagles, 1999-,
Memberships: National spokesperson, American Diabetes Association; Pinnacy Society of American Diabetes Association.
Awards: Three-time Big East Conference offensive player of the year; selected Big East player of the year, Football News, 1998.
Addresses: Philadelphia Eagles, One Navacare Way, Philadelphia, PA 19145.
college football player, McNabb’s coronation to the City of Brotherly Love was certainly not indicative of the town’s nickname. When selected, Eagles fans booed loudly and often. McNabb took the experience in stride, demonstrating class and professionalism. “And what did McNabb do in return? Did he whine? Did he run into a rampage and blame the media? No. He smiled,” Jon Robinson wrote on the NFL Under the Helmet website. “He walked up to the podium and smiled. That’s because the young man with as much potential as any player to ever take a snap in the NFL knew that the Eagles weren’t just drafting a quarterback…they were drafting a franchise.”
Rookie quarterbacks take some seasoning in the NFL and that is exactly what Eagles’ coach Andy Reid did with McNabb. McNabb served as backup to the club’s starting quarterback. McNabb’s first official NFL action came in the second half of a September 19, 1999 game against Tampa Bay. He completed four passes for 26 total yards, but was sacked by the defense six times in the half. Later, he played the second half against Carolina, a 33-7 loss. McNabb was given his first starting assignment against Washington on November 14th. He went on to start the final seven games of the season. Coach Reid had nothing but high praise for his young quarterback. “I’ve been through a lot of young quarterbacks and if he’s not the fastest to learn, he learning as fast as the fastest,” Reid said on NFL.com.
The remainder of the 1999 season was a series of firsts for McNabb. In his first start against Washington, he made two, 2-point conversions, ran for 49 yards and threw for another 60 yards in the 35-28 win. The following week, he threw his first NFL touchdown pass on November 11th against Indianapolis. As the season wore on, his passing yardage increased. He threw for 129 yards versus Washington and 157 yards against Arizona. After spraining his medial collateral ligament in his knee, McNabb returned in the season finale against St. Louis, throwing a career-high three touchdowns in a 38-31 win.
The 2000 campaign afforded McNabb his chance to shine. He took over starting duties full-time and showed Philly fans why he was the quarterback of their football future. McNabb’s style was unique. Some quarterbacks take the snap, drop back, and fire passes. Others can scramble out of the pocket and still get the pass off. Still others are pure runners. McNabb bridged each of those characteristics. In 2000 McNabb used his unique style to put up impressive numbers. After starting all 16 regular-season games, McNabb finished 2000 with 3,365 passing yards with 330 completions on 569 attempts, 21 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
By the end of the 2000-01 season, the Eagles had made the NFL playoffs. McNabb had a solid regular season en route to the playoffs, averaging 210 passing yards and at least once touchdown per game. The Eagles finished 11-5 and made it past the first round until they were stopped by the New York Giants, at a score of 20-10. McNabb had brought them far enough that, had they won that game, it would have been the first time in twenty years that Philadelphia played for the National Football Conference title game, with the winner headed to the Super Bowl.
In addition to having a strong passing game, the six-feet, two-inch and 226-pound quarterback has shown a knack for running out of the pocket when the pressure is on. He finished 2000 with 629 rushing yards, an average of nearly forty yards per game. Some quarterbacks take the sack, but reverting to his style as a child, the last thing McNabb wanted was to get crushed in the backfield by an enormous lineman or speedy safety. McNabb’s scrambling ability was a necessity. “I don’t think safeties and linebackers try to ease up on the running backs because if the backs lower their shoulders then the defenders will begin to get embarrassed on TV,” McNabb said on the NFL Under the Helmet website. “So as the years continued toward mobile quarterbacks, safeties are now trying to take off the quarterback’s heads, so you have to protect yourself.”
McNabb has taken the title of team leader very seriously. While moments of humor and brevity occur on the field, a soldier-like mentality and undying commitment to the team are two qualities that rate highest with McNabb. For any NFL player—especially the team leader—success comes from not only showing by example with physical performance, but emotional leadership as well. The tone can be set with a reaction to just one play. “Well, you gotta keep in mind that the ball is always in your hands. If you drop back to pass, you fumble the ball, now everyone’s doing their job, but you,” McNabb said on the NFL Under the Helmet website. “So, when you go in the huddle and you go up to the line of scrimmage, you have to look guys in the eye. And, once you look them in the eye, and they can see how serious you are about the game, how much you love the game, then it’ll rub off on some other players.” McNabb added, “A lot of teams have great athletes, but being in a position where you love the game, you do whatever is needed to win that game and guys see that. Then everyone will follow.”
In addition to commitment on the field, McNabb has devoted much of his time and effort toward the elimination diabetes. McNabb’s grandmother, Maude Eva Jenkins, died from complications of diabetes and his father, Sam, has been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, so McNabb’s crusade against the disease was a personal one. To generate awareness and education about the condition, he sponsored the Donovan McNabb Celebrity All-Star weekend. Held every summer, the festivities typically began with an All-Pro football clinic featuring not only McNabb, but several other big-name NFL players. The rest of weekend centered around a gala awards dinner, prayer brunch on Sunday, and winded down with a “Play With the Pros” Celebrity All-Star basketball game. Additionally, McNabb became a member of the Pinnacle Society in 2001 when he donated $10,000 to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). McNabb has sponsored children to attend diabetic camps and served as a co-chair for the ADA’s annual national fund-raiser, “America’s Walk for Diabetes.” A leader both on and off the field, McNabb is certain to achieve even greater things in the future.
Additional information for this profile was provided by Nancy Mitchell Public Relations.
—John Horn and Jennifer M. York
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