ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County native Dannell Ellerbe is going back to the Super Bowl.
Only this time, it’s with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m happy but reserved because I know just getting to the Super Bowl isn’t enough,” Ellerbe said. “I don’t want to say I’m anxious but I’m looking forward to — and still focused on — winning the Super Bowl, not just getting to it.”
Ellerbe, born and raised in Hamlet, is one of seven Eagles players who have been fortunate enough to make it to the league’s biggest stage and come away with a win. He played for the Baltimore Ravens, as did current teammates safety Corey Graham and wide receiver Torrey Smith, when they edged out the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
Other Eagles who have at least one Super Bowl ring are offensive tackle Will Beatty (New York Giants: SB XLVI), running back LaGarrette Blount (New England Patriots: SB XLIX, SB LI), safety Malcolm Jenkins (New Orleans Saints: SB XLIV) and defensive end Chris Long (New England Patriots: SB LI).
Also, head coach Doug Pederson was a member of the Green Bay Packers’ 1997 team that won Super Bowl XXXI.
“We’ve basically been preaching the same thing we did during the playoffs,” Ellerbe of said of the veterans’ message to the players who have yet to make it this far. “You can’t take this for granted. You’ve got to make sure you go about it like a business, don’t leave any stone unturned, take care of your body and stay focused.”
It hasn’t been an easy road for Ellerbe on the journey to his second Super Bowl appearance, however.
Ellerbe, a linebacker, has missed more than 45 regular-season games — due to different injuries — and is now playing on his third team since the 2013 season. He was placed on injured reserve at the beginning of the 2017 season, then a member of the New Orleans Saints, and was waived a month later.
But the Eagles came calling after starting linebacker Jordan Hicks suffered a season-ending achilles injury in Week 7, and Ellerbe signed the dotted line on Nov. 12, 2017. He’s appeared in three games since, starting two, and has recorded a combined eight tackles.
The Hamlet native was inactive for Sunday’s NFC Championship game versus the Minnesota Vikings because of a hamstring injury, but confirmed that he’ll be ready to go for Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4.
“It’s just the bad luck of the game. You can train right, eat right, do everything right, but at the end of the day, you can’t prepare for getting hurt. You’ve just got to out there and play,” he said. “If you get hurt, you just rehab and get back to where you can play again. I’ve been dealing with that so much that it doesn’t faze me anymore.
“As long as it’s not a serious injury, just tweaks here and there, I can deal with that,” he added. “I’m just staying focused.”
The next time Ellerbe hits the field, he’ll be up against the most dominant NFL franchise of the modern era and arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time in the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.
Together, the Patriots and Brady have won five Super Bowls, two in the last three seasons, and will be looking to become only the second team in league history — other than the Pittsburgh Steelers — to win back-to-back title games on two separate occassions.
“To beat them, you definitely can’t have too many penalties and missed assignments. You’ve got to be fundamentally sound when you play those guys,” Ellerbe said. “You can’t worry about trying to beat them, you’ve just got to be the best you.”
If the “Underdog Eagles” — a nickname they’ve adopted throughout their playoff run — are able to bring the franchise its first-ever Super Bowl win, it would bring back the feeling Ellerbe had nearly five years ago when the Ravens hoisted the Lombardi Trophy amidst the falling confetti.
It would also set the example for his kids, those coming up in Richmond County, and children everywhere else that as long as they work hard and stay focused, they’ll be able to accomplish whatever goals they’ve set for themselves.
“It may not come when you think it should, but if you keep working long enough the situation will definitely play out in your favor,” he said.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe goes through a drill during his annual football camp a few years ago. Ellerbe, a Hamlet native, will be making his second appearance in the Super Bowl when the Eagles face off against the New England Patriots in Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 4.