Detroit Lions coach Duce Staley spent 17 years with Eagles: 'Past the emotion part of it'

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Duce Staley has plenty of fond memories from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Staley spent 17 seasons with the organization, including winning a Super Bowl there as a coach and three 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a player.

But as he prepares to face his old team Sunday at Ford Field, Staley — now the Detroit Lions' running backs coach and assistant head coach — said one of his favorite recollections is from his first day on the job.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell and assistant Duce Staley watch action against the Buffalo Bills during the second half of the preseason game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.
Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell and assistant Duce Staley watch action against the Buffalo Bills during the second half of the preseason game at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.

“When I first got there, I remember Rodney Peete being there, and then I remember him walking in and I had a chance to see him and I remember him saying, ‘All right, young buck, congratulations. Tuesday, we’re going to need that food,’” Staley said. “And at the time, I didn’t really understand what he was saying, 'cause I was a rookie but didn’t understand the rookie responsibilities at the time. But I found out rather quickly through Ricky Watters.”

Staley brought Peete, Watters and other Eagles vets McDonald’s that next week — and plenty of times thereafter.

And 24 years later, he still smiles about the lessons he learned.

“I learned rather quickly that you got to go get a friend at McDonald’s,” Staley said. “So I was able to get a friend at McDonald’s and let him know we can’t never be late when it comes to this food.”

A third-round pick out of South Carolina in 1997, Staley played seven seasons as a dual-threat running back with the Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Duce Staley runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oct. 6, 2002.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Duce Staley runs against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oct. 6, 2002.

He ran for 5,785 yards in his Philadelphia career, caught 275 passes and scored 32 touchdowns.

He played three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers after he left Philadelphia, then — after a brief hiatus from the NFL — returned to the Eagles as an assistant coach.

Staley coached special teams and running backs in Philadelphia, and twice interviewed for the Eagles head coaching job. When he was passed over in favor of Nick Sirianni in January, he joined Dan Campbell’s staff in Detroit.

Staley said Thursday he left on amicable terms with the organization — Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said at the time Staley was “like a son to me” — and has no vendetta against his old team this week.

“I think I’m past the emotion part of it,” he said. “Of course, we’re going to war, and that’s how I see it. Of course, had a lot of great memories there, both as a player and as a coach. So when you play the team that drafted you, you played for them and going back coaching, it’s a lot of memories. A lot of good memories.”

Campbell lured Staley to Detroit with the promise he would help groom Staley to be a head coach, just as the Saints' Sean Payton did for him in New Orleans.

Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) and assistant coach Duce Staley during organized team activities at Lions headquarters in Allen Park, Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) and assistant coach Duce Staley during organized team activities at Lions headquarters in Allen Park, Thursday, May 27, 2021.

To that end, the Lions involved Staley with all offseason offensive and defensive free agent evaluations, and Campbell has tasked Staley with some of the media and other obligations that might otherwise fall on his plate.

On Tuesday, the NFL enacted changes to its "Rooney Rule" designed to help minority candidates land head coaching jobs. Under the new guidelines, teams must conduct at least one in-person interview with a minority candidate from outside the organization.

Last year, because of COVID-19, teams conducted their first round of interviews via video conference.

Staley, who has overseen one of the Lions’ most productive units this fall, said the change is welcome.

“It’s progress,” Staley said. “One word, progress. And you see it, and the NFL is definitely taking a stand and also pushing the envelope, so that’s all you can ask. Just continue to move forward, continue to have guys like myself and others chase the ultimate dream, the ultimate goal, and hopefully they’ll land a seat. That’s all you can ask for, just the opportunity.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Duce Staley: Rooney Rule changes 'progress'