Some people choose their favorite team based on who their parents cheer for. Others select their team because of a particular moment or season. And sometimes it’s a combination of things.
The latter is the case for Jerome Cherry and his affinity for the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I really liked eagles and I liked the color green,” he said. “It just felt right.”
The biggest factor in Cherry’s decision to root for the Eagles was Randall Cunningham, who served as the Eagles’ quarterback from 1985-1995.
“I wanted to be Randall Cunningham,” he recalled.
Growing up in central New Jersey, Cherry’s family is primarily made up of New York Giants fans, though his parents are fans of the Eagles’ biggest divisional rival, the Dallas Cowboys.
“It’s just me and my sister who cheer for the Eagles,” Cherry said. “I have to remind them that we have two (conference) championships, but they’re not Super Bowls, so they don’t count I guess.”
Since becoming a fan in 1985, Cherry has rooted for his team through their highs and lows. The game on Feb. 4 will mark the Eagles’ third trip to the bowl and their first since the end of the 2004 season.
“You know we’re true fans because we don’t have any Super Bowl wins,” he said. “We’ve never been a losing team, but we’ve never quite gotten there either.”
Cherry is understandably excited to see them make it to the big game once again, although he’s not thrilled about the team they’re playing.
The last time the Eagles played in the Super Bowl, they lost 24-21 to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This go-around, they’re facing Brady and the Patriots again.
“I’m not happy about the match up, but the Eagles are going to go about their business and do what we need to do,” he said.
And what they need to do, according to Cherry, is keep Brady off the field as much as possible, especially late in the game. It’s a lesson that the Atlanta Falcons learned the hard way in last year’s Super Bowl.
“If he [Brady] gets the ball and has a chance to win, he’s going to win,” Cherry said.
He is confident, though, that the Eagles can prevent that from happening. And the fact that they have a couple of former Patriots playing for them doesn’t hurt.
Running back LeGarratte Blount and defensive end Chris Long both played for the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl game and will face their former teammates in Minnesota.
“That gives us a bit of insight into what they’re going to do,” Cherry said. “Long understands how they operate on defense and Blount gets some key looks in the backfield.”
Ties to the Patriots aside, Cherry feels that Long is going to be a crucial part of the Eagles’ defensive game.
“He’s all over the place,” he said. “He didn’t get a lot of credit for it, but he was in on that first interception [against the Vikings].”
Sunday’s interception by Patrick Robinson, which he ran back for a 50-yard touchdown to tie the game in the first quarter, happened in part because of Long getting into the pocket and hitting Vikings quarterback Case Keenum just enough to throw off his aim. Plays like that will make the difference in any game, but against the Patriots, they could prove invaluable.
One of the biggest stories for the Eagles this postseason is the fact that their first string quarterback, Carson Wentz, was removed from the starting line-up after tearing his ACL in the Week 14 game against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 10. The loss of Wentz was something that Cherry felt deeply.
“My heart rolled when he went down,” Cherry said.
But, he added, this isn’t the first time the team has had to make adjustments when a player gets hurt.
“It’s something that they’ve been doing all year,” he said. “One guy goes down and another steps up and we keep going.”
Second string quarterback Nick Foles stepped in for Wentz and has led the team through the postseason, defeating the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings in turn to claim the National Football Conference title and advance to the big game.
“Foles really has it,” Cherry said. “He just needs to believe that he has it. The more confidence he has, the better he plays. [Patriots head coach Bill] Belichick is going to try to take that away, but we can’t let him.”
Cherry is confident in his team and would love to see them come out on top of a 24-21 contest, a reversal of the score from the 2005 game.
“We’re definitely going to bring it,” he said. “We can make it happen.”