The crucial lesson Jeremy Maclin learned in his first NFL game

Reuben Frank
NBC Sports Philadelphia

It was Jeremy Maclin's first NFL game and his first lesson in how to be a professional.

Without catching a pass. 

This was opening day of 2009, Eagles-Panthers, down in Charlotte.

"This is how I knew what type of person [Andy Reid] was," Maclin recalled Thursday. "I'm a rookie, and the whole training camp Kevin Curtis doesn't practice, he's hurt, and I'm going with the 1's - me and D-Jack. Having a pretty decent camp for a rookie, so I'm thinking against Carolina I'm going to play."

But he didn't play. The Eagles' lead kept getting bigger and bigger - 31-10 at halftime - and still Maclin rode the bench.

Finally, with the Eagles up 38-10 at the end of the third quarter, Reid took out Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, DeSean Jacskon and the other starters.

Maclin thought he'd finally get his chance to catch some passes.

Maclin recalled that game Thursday on the Eagle Eye podcast with myself and Dave Zangaro.

We're beating them pretty bad and Big Red comes up to me and he goes, ‘Hey, you ready to go in and block?' Go in and block? What's he talking about? But after thinking back on it he had a little smirk on his face, and I understood why he said that to me. You have to be a football player and the situation we were in, four-minute offense, we're running the football, 'Mac go in there and block.' So I went in there and blocked my ass off. (Panthers players) were coming up to me, ‘Why you ain't playing, dude?' I don't know! But as the weeks went on I started getting into the games (earlier) and I was starting (soon). But that's Big Red in a nutshell right there. That's him.

That was Big Red's way of emphasizing to a 21-year-old rookie how important it was to be a complete player.

It wasn't just about catching passes. It was about doing whatever the team needed to win.

Lot of people can be good receivers," Maclin said. "Not everybody can be good football players. That's what I prided myself on.

Even though he missed the entire 2013 season, Maclin is top-10 in Eagles history in catches, yards and touchdowns. Including his time with Reid in Kansas City and a year with the Ravens, he finished with 514 catches, 6,835 yards and 49 touchdowns in eight seasons.

Maclin said even though the Eagles went 4-12 under Reid in 2012, losing 11 of their last 12 games, the team was still disappointed when Reid was fired.

"Guys were mad, guys were angry, guys were upset," he said. "I don't know if there's a coach in this league that's more respected and more liked than Big Red. I really don't. And that's not me being biased, that's just me being around a lot of guys in a lot of places, and that seems to be the consensus to how people feel about it. So I think immediately people were mad, people were upset. Me and Shady were pissed. We were so mad. And I didn't know much about Chip [Kelly], but when he got there that spring (of 2013) and we got into OTAs you got a little juices flowing and your first impression is everything so guys kind of gravitated toward that, something new, something fresh. It wasn't until we kind into the swing of things the light got shined on a bunch of the stuff that people have said and stuff people did not take very kindly to."

Maclin spoke on the Eagle Eye podcast about how he was tempted to come out of retirement last offseason, about what it was like watching his friends on the Eagles win the Super Bowl in 2017 and about his coaching career.

You can listen to the entire interview below.

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The crucial lesson Jeremy Maclin learned in his first NFL game originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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