How his years on North Broad shaped Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai
How his years on North Broad made Desai who he is originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Some people just aren’t cut out for this city. They’re talented, gifted, successful, but they just aren’t wired the right way. They just don’t connect with Philadelphia and what it means to call this place home.
You don’t need me to mention any names. You know who they are.
Then there are the guys who just fit here from the start. Who just get it.
Kelce. Allen. Chase. Dawk. Charlie.
They may not have grown up here, but they're about as Philly as you can get.
Count Sean Desai in that group. He knows what it takes to win here. He knows what it takes to live here. He knows what it takes to flourish here.
Desai, the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, first arrived in Philly in 2006 and received his doctorate in educational administration from Temple in May of 2008. He not only joined Al Golden’s coaching staff in 2009, he taught in the master’s and doctoral programs in education administration at Temple.
During his six years with Golden, Temple improved from 1-11 in 2006 — its 16th straight losing season — to 9-4 and 8-4 in 2009 and 2010, the first back-to-back eight-win seasons in program history.
It would be 13 more years until Desai returned to Philly, but even while he coached at Miami and Boston College, the Bears and Seahawks, deep down he was always a Philly guy.
And when Nick Sirianni hired him as the Eagles’ new defensive coordinator, his Philly history made it even more special.
“The honest truth is this is an emotional kind of homecoming for me to come back to Philadelphia,” Desai said. “There's a lot of pride that we take in this city. My wife went to school here (at Temple). I went to school here. I started my coaching career here … down the road, and we helped turn that program around there.
“To come full circle almost and come on the other side of Broad Street where it's a different level of football over here is really special. We don't take this lightly. We're really humbled to be in this role, and really proud to be in this role, and really excited to represent this city and really pour back into this city the way the city poured into me and my family coming up as I was younger.”
Desai isn’t the first Eagles defensive coordinator with ties to the area. Sean McDermott grew up in Lansdale and attended North Penn and La Salle high schools. He had a keen sense of what brand of defense resonated in Philadelphia, and you don’t have to watch a whole lot of Buffalo Bills tape these days to see his teams still play that style.
Having Philadelphia ties doesn’t mean Desai will be a terrific coordinator, but he believes his ties to the city are integral to the way he coaches.
“Philly is a unique place,” he said. “Some people take to it and some people don't. … What attracted me to it is I think the personality, the grit. You've got to earn it, and you've got to earn it every day. You've got to put in the work.
“We're tough-minded people. We don't take — you know, I don’t like swearing — we don’t take stuff from other people.
“That doesn't mean you do it in an egotistical way, doesn't mean you do it in any type of way. But you know who you are, you know what your identity is, and you try to achieve that identity every single day. You have this workman mentality that you're here to put in the work.”
Desai spent six years in Philly — six formative years. He lived on North Broad. He coached at the Linc. He met his wife at Temple.
It doesn’t get more Philly than that.
“That's kind of how I've built my career, with that (Philly) mentality,” he said. “That it wasn't given to me and I had to earn it.
“I learned a lot that year in Philly. Getting through the doctoral program at Temple while I'm coaching, and then creating opportunities and taking advantage of the opportunities that were given.
“That's kind of where I came of age. It's 21 to 24 and doing all that stuff, you kind of learn that from your environment, and this was the environment that I grew in.”
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