Eagles’ Andre Dillard claims he’s a changed person in 2021

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Why Dillard says he's a completely different person originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Is he a new player? We’ll find out this summer.

Is he a new person? There’s no question about it.

In his first chat with the media since last August, Andre Dillard spoke at length Thursday about how he’s grown as a player and person since he suffered a season-ending biceps injury at practice last summer.

For the generally reticent and guarded Dillard, it was a rare glimpse into how he’s transformed from a 23-year-old overmatched rookie right tackle getting benched against the Seahawks in November of 2019 into a confident, grounded 25-year-old third-year pro battling Jordan Mailata for the starting left tackle job.

“I feel so much different than before,” Dillard said. “I’ve matured a lot in a lot of ways just in terms of knowing the plays, polishing my technique, having the right mindset with all the different things that come with being a pro. I really think the biggest thing for me is confidence. My rookie year I wasn’t as confident and over the years I’ve put so much work in to better myself as a player and a person.

“I think I’ve matured a lot. I honestly feel like I’m a different person in a lot of aspects than my first year. Completely different.”

Whether it translates into performance on the field remains to be seen, but Dillard sure comes across differently.

The defensiveness we saw from Dillard as a rookie is gone, and in its place is a thoughtful and confident guy who understands what’s at stake with his career and has made significant changes in his life that he hopes lead to better play on the field.

“I definitely learned about myself (missing last year) and how much the game really means to me and how serious I am about this. Losing a season to an injury definitely makes you see it in a different perspective, a different light, and it lit a huge fire in me. A different kind of fire than I felt before because something like this has never happened to me before.”

The Dillard who took everything personally? Who couldn’t handle criticism? Who let cheap shots on social media get to him?

That’s gone.

Dillard said he’s given up social media and that’s let him focus on what’s really important, including preparing to play football.

“A lot of people including myself, we just spend 30 minutes just sitting there scrolling through stuff, you find interesting videos and all that stuff, and the next thing you know a whole hour goes by and you’re like, ‘Dang, I just kind of wasted that. I didn’t get anything out of that,’” Dillard said. “There’s good and bad on the Internet but I’d rather not deal with it. Because I spent too much time on it. That’s really the case. But it’s definitely helped me. It feels like I live a more simple life. I get up, go work, study, all that stuff, relax, read, not once do I flip open my phone and just read. I still get news, but nothing too crazy, and it has helped me a lot, I think.”

Dillard took a lot of criticism as a rookie – some of it deserved, some of it unfair – and he admitted Thursday it got to him.

No more.

He said he’s been able to work on his game with a clear mind without worrying about the negativity.

He’s aware of the reality, that he needs to beat out Mailata this summer if he’s going to be the Eagles’ starting left tackle.

And anything that doesn’t help him prepare for that competition is only hurting him.

“In terms of social media that’s directly aimed at me, when I first got here, it was kind of a shock to me because I never realized that’s kind of how it is once you get to the (NFL) level, you know?” he said. “Whatever negativity gets pointed at you, it was kind of a shock to me.

“But as the years went on I kind of learned how it goes and certain things you just can’t feed into it. You can’t feed the negativity or else it will just keep growing and growing and weigh on you. You can’t focus on that type of stuff. You just focus on what’s important. Guys within the building, coaches, and just the work that you’re putting in.

“I try not to pay any attention to that stuff because it’s just all noise. My job is to just keep my head down and just work.”

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