TWO TEXAS TRANSPLANTS GET FAMILY ON BOARD AGAINST THE COWBOYS IN THEIR OWN WAY
The Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys twice over the final seven games of a season that so far has been pretty special for fans in Philadelphia where the Birds are 8-1 after nine games.
At press time the Birds were headed to Jerry’s World to take on a wounded Cowboys team.
Dallas will be without the services of three of the team’s top players including embattled running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is serving a six-game suspension, Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith, who is dealing with a groin issue and Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee who suffered a hamstring injury in the Cowboys loss at Atlanta.
But the Cowboys are the Cowboys to Eagles fans and the intense rivalry will go on regardless of who is playing on the other side of the line.
Now that he’s been here for almost five years, Lane Johnson is well aware there are regular season games and there is Dallas week.
Eagles fans get up for Dallas like no other team. Johnson, who grew up in Groveton, Texas, about 185 miles south of Dallas, said he doesn’t believe his family members when they claim to be Eagles fans now that he plays for Philadelphia.
“Pretty much all my family is from Texas,” Johnson said at his locker the week before the first of two games against the Cowboys. “A lot of them say they’re Eagles fans, but I think deep down they root for the Cowboys.”
To say the Eagles 6-foot-5, 317-pound tackle has a dark sense of humor would not be giving it justice. When Johnson gave an example of his quest to convert the entire Johnson family into bleeding green, the discussion went right into the weeds.
“Like even last year, Cowboys are going to the playoffs, I heard my grandmother rooting to Dallas,” said Johnson, setting up the punch line for the handful of reporters at his locker. “You’re 74, if want to see 75 you better shut our ass up! …I was just messing with her…but it is what it is. That’s where I’m from and a lot of people back home are Dallas Cowboys fans and this game means a lot to them. I’ve been a part of this for a few years so I know what to expect.”
Eagles newcomer, running back Jay Ajayi, who the Birds acquired on October 31, 2017 from the Miami Dolphins, grew up in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas.
He played for Liberty High School and the RedHawks actually played for a state title at AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys.
But in his case there were several Eagles fans already in his house growing up, even in the Dallas area.
“In Texas there’s like a split house,” Ajayi said at his locker. “My dad, he was on the Cowboys side, my mom, she loved Donovan McNabb, that was like her favorite player. She was always rooting for the Eagles. Obviously when I went to the Dolphins she became a Dolphins fan. But we’re an Eagles household all the way now. It’s exciting to be on my mom’s team.
“It’s great to come back to Jerry’s World,” Ajayi continued. “I played there my senior year in high school, so it’s like a special homecoming. My high school coach and everyone has been texting me.”
Ajayi was asked if it was hard to convert his dad away from the Cowboys.
“No,” Ajayi said with laugh. “Once I got drafted, they’re for the team I’m on. My support system is amazing. They’ve figured out the whole trade thing (from Dolphins to the Eagles) as I have, and they have been very supportive.”
Johnson said all the family stuff is fun, as is joking about it with fans, but he stresses that the Eagles, with the season they’ve started, are only focused on today’s practice, not the that Sunday or December 31 when they play the Cowboys in the season finale.
You don’t have to remind this team it’s Dallas this week or any week.
“We already know what it means,” Johnson said. ‘I think if you look ahead you’re just distracting yourself. Everybody knows what time it is, we don’t have to say anything. We know it’s here. So we just take it one day at a time , that’s what we always preach and keep your mind on the main thing (Super Bowl).” *
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