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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
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Eric Weddle - A True Leader
ESPN ‘s Grantland recently dubbed him “The Secret Superstar” who’s “been nothing less than the best safety in the NFL.”
That’s high praise for Eric Weddle, and Chargers fans have certainly felt that way for years about the safety.
Through six seasons, he’s tallied 561 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, 16 interceptions and five sacks. His 10 interceptions over the last two seasons are tied for third-most in the NFL, and among his 16 picks, three were returned for touchdowns. A Pro Bowl starter after the 2011 season, Weddle was voted the Chargers’ Most Valuable Player by his teammates at the end of last season after leading the team with 111 tackles. He also earned first-team All-Pro honors from CBSSports.com and Pro Football Weekly & the Professional Football Writers of America, and second-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press.
But just as important as any accolade and statistic he may put up, Weddle is a leader by the very definition of the word. Some of the players have dubbed him the smartest guy on the team, but more than anything it’s the way he carries himself, cares about his teammates and instructs them that has earned their respect.
“Eric means everything to us,” said Shareece Wright. “He’s our quarterback. He’s our Philip Rivers of the defense. He’s very important. It feels good knowing he’s back there. It’s a comfort that it allows us to have knowing he’s there. I know he’s back there and he’s got my back and he’s going to make sure he gives me the alerts I need to be at the top of my game. He wants to be great. He wants to be the best and he carries himself like that every single day.”
Fellow safety Darrell Stuckey noticed that from day one when he joined the Chargers as a fourth-round pick back in 2010.
“My first impression of Eric was that he was very direct and very smart,” said Stuckey. “He knew what he expected of his teammates and he knew how to get us to that level. He’s definitely set himself apart to the point where he proves his value every time he’s out there. He’s a guy who knows the defense entirely. He’s set the standard for what a safety here has to be. Personally, he means a lot to me because he’s a consistent player, a consistent person and a consistent leader. He’s definitely a guy who sets the standard of how to work each and every day no matter the situation. You know he’s going to show up every day and take his reps. He’s very reliable and he’s a great teammate.”
Derek Cox is a four-year veteran entering his first season in San Diego. It didn’t take long for him either to realize he just joined forces with a special player.
“He’s got a great knowledge of the game and he has a knack for getting guys in the right position,” he said. “He helps the team from a technique standpoint to get them lined up to make their plays. It’s just like having a coach on the field.”
The players aren’t the only one who’s noticed Weddle’s value to the team. Coaches have long raved about his work ethic, approach to the game and leadership skills, and head coach Mike McCoy is no different.
“He’s a crafty veteran that’s played a lot and has had a great career to this point and time,” said McCoy.” He is a great guy to learn from. Anytime you can play behind an experienced veteran, you’re crazy to not listen to everything they say or watch everything they do. Some guys are a little quieter than others, but you’ve got to watch what they do (and) how they do things. The way they study the game. The good players in this league, it’s not only on the field, it’s off the field. The way they take care of their bodies. It’s nutritionally. It’s the weight room. It’s the film room. It’s everything they do, because they’re true pros. And that’s what Eric is.”
Equally important is the fact that Weddle relishes his standing on the team. He takes his job as a leader very seriously and is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Chargers get better.
“It’s something I feel I have to do and want to do,” he said. “I talk individually and collectively with every guy. I give them tips and anticipate things by letting them know what I see. I try to put them in the best position to succeed by using the knowledge that I have of the schemes and what I think the offense is going to do.”
Weddle also appreciates the way his teammates rave about him, admitting it’s humbling but rewarding.
“Oh I definitely appreciate it,” he said. “I play for these guys. These guys are my group. They’re my family and my brothers. So it means the utmost to hear they look at me like that, and I have to live up to it.”