When the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round this past April, he talked about being a late comer to the game of football, not really playing it until arriving in high school as a sophomore. He talked about how lanky he was and how he packed on some weight by eating endless amounts of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Well, the coach who pestered him to come to a football meeting, Wayne Maxwell, and the coach who bought Dillard those PB&J sandwiches, Mike Monan, took in Eagles practices on Wednesday and Thursday.
PHOTO: Wayne Maxwell (left) and Mike Monan visit with Dillard after Thursday's practice.
“Starting with coach Maxwell, I wouldn’t even be playing football at all if it wasn’t for him because in ninth grade when I’d go to PE, I’d go through the locker room and he’d always be like, ‘Hey Dillard you going to try out for the high school? ’” said Dillard. “At the time, I hated playing football. I was like, it’s not for me, I’ll get destroyed. Eventually I just cracked and went up there.
“That’s when I met coach Monan and he instantly treated me like I was one of his sons. Took me under his wing and taught me a lot of things. He would even go and buy me peanut butter and jellies from the store, all that good stuff. They’re just great people. I’ll never forget what they’ve done for me ever, and they’ll always be special to me.”
Dillard got some reps at first team this week, with the Eagles giving 37-year-old Jason Peters an occasional breather. On Thursday, he stepped in for Peters when Peters had difficulty getting up after one play late in practice and did not return.
VIDEO: Hear Andre Dillard credit his coaches for being in the NFL
“Andre Dillard obviously is a bright spot,” said head coach Doug Pederson. “He's getting better every single day. He's competing. Is it pretty all the time? It's not. But at least he's understanding his role and what he’s expected of.
“We just have to get him comfortable where he's at. I think he's capable of going to the other side (right tackle), but right now, have to get him comfortable on the left side and keep learning from JP.”
Maxwell, who is the head coach at Dillard’s alma mater, Woodinville High in Washington, and Monan, who is the school’s offensive line coach, weren’t sure what they had in Dillard.
Maxwell likely liked Dillard’s lanky 6-2, 195-pound frame, but really just wanted to get the young teenager into his program, which preaches building self-confidence, camaraderie and family.
“At one of the kickoff meetings, we told him this is what football is all about,” said Maxwell. “It was more developing a relationship. Kids at that age, what 13, 14, they’re so day-to-day and with everything that’s going on to try to get from one day to the next, it was just more building that relationship with him to where he could trust me ultimately. Once he got up and moving, we saw how quick he was. We thought this kid could do something.”
Added Monan: “He was just kind of skin and bones. Then he went through underneath the linemen’s chute doing some drills and I saw how low he could get and how fast his feet were and I said this kid’s something special, I just have to figure out how to put weight on.”
That was when Monan began making trips to Costco to buy PB&J’s in bulk.
Dillard gobbled them down after practice and before bed. He returned as a junior around 220 then expanded to 230 as a senior.
“His athletic ability and his desire to get better every day (helped set him apart),” said Monan. “He didn’t sit in the back and say I’m the best on the field. Every day he wanted to get better. Every play when he would make a mistake, I’d critique him and say, hey, then boom, you could see the frustration, you could see the wheels clicking, then he wouldn’t make that mistake again or try not to and he would learn from it.”
Dillard is learning and the ultimate professional level, and he has not forgotten where he came from, and if he hasn’t by now, he never will.
“I don’t have children,” said Monan. “I always tell him he’s like my son. I couldn’t be more proud. His development in college and his development to get here is just exactly what you need, that heart and desire, and that’s what he wanted at this point because a lot of kids, they get big, they get strong, they get to this point and they think the world owes it to them. He turned the tables around and says, ‘I’m going to rule the world by doing what I need to do.’ He’s awesome.”