PHILADELPHIA — No professional athlete resonates more with Philadelphia-area sports fans than Eagles center Jason Kelce, the perennial All-Pro who coined the phrase “No one likes us, we don’t care” during his Super Bowl championship rant in front of the Art Museum.
At the same time, no one through the years, not even Vince Papale, the proud product of Interboro High and central character in the movie “Invincible,” embraces the underdog status more thoroughly than Eagles punt returner/wide receiver Britain Covey. The 5-8, 173-pound Covey is a David versus Goliath story that was gaining traction before his 27-yard punt return was overshadowed by Kadarius Toney’s record 65-yard return against the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.
Covey’s dazzling 52-yard return Monday night in Tampa set up the first points of what would be a 25-11 win over the Buccaneers.
“We know we have maybe a hidden gem that not everybody always fully appreciates,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “He is a locker room favorite here. These guys love Britain Covey because he’s tough, he works his butt off, has a great personality. The 50-whatever-yard return got the sideline excited, but it’s the connection that our players have, and our coaches have to Britain Covey the person, that even made that maybe look a little bit more uptick.”
Covey is averaging 18.8 yards on six punt returns this season, second in the league to Rashid Shaheed of New Orleans (24.5-yard average), the standard right now. He returned a punt 76 yards for a score this season.
Last season Covey was ninth in the NFL with an average return of 9.3 yards on 33 punt returns, the latter second on the circuit.
To hear and read the public comments about Covey, you would think he was eminently replaceable and borderline worthless. Covey is the first guy up after a big hit sends him pirouetting through the air. More recently, he’s the guy to bounce back from a rare lost fumble with an electric game.
“Maybe my saying is, no one likes me (and) I don’t care,” Covey said. “You can’t put your mind into that. Even if I play great over the next however many times at some point, people won’t like me again. You trust what your teammates say about you, what your coaches say about you, what they know about you, and what you know about yourself. I’ve never doubted or wavered and I never will, regardless of what happens in the next few weeks.”
The good teammate seal of approval means a lot more to Covey than statistics. He’s been that way since serving a captaincy at the University of Utah. Covey says “people underestimate how impactful great teammates can be.
“Sometimes I view it as my job to keep A.J. and Smitty and Quez’s confidence high on the sidelines,” Covey said of receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins. “You just want to be an energy giver.”
Covey is a lot more than a cheerleader. Eagles receiver and kickoff returner Devon Allen, the world class hurdler, has been floored by the help and encouragement given by Covey, whose football production is nothing to sneeze at.
“When you look at his stats over the last 10 games from last season to now, he’s leading the league in every category as a punt returner – return yards, returns over 10 yards, returns over 25 yards,” Allen said. “So, he’s really consistent, and he gives our team an edge being back there and having the opportunity to make a play at any moment.”
Covey is that guy who every morning says hello to each of the players by name.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a player, staff, athletic trainers, coaches (or) wait staff, he’s really consistent,” Allen said. “I think his dad is really big on relationships and I think that’s super important. … Relationships are important, especially with football, in building trust and that desire to go out there and play for your teammates. You want to block for a guy like Covey because he’s a really good person and you want to take care of him.”
If the Eagles are fortunate enough to have another parade down Broad Street to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, they’ll pass the Rocky statue in all its raging symbolism. Covey can relate.
“That Rocky quote where it’s like, ‘it’s not how hard you hit, it’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward,’ I think a lot of times,” Covey said. “That’s all Philly wants to see, how much can you take and keep going forward? I know people kind of make fun of me for getting absolutely destroyed out there a few times. But you’ll never see me stop.”
Source: Berkshire mont