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Meet Eagles youngest position coach with overwhelming passion for football


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Meet Eagles youngest position coach with overwhelming passion for football


A few weeks after the Eagles finalized their new staff, head coach Nick Sirianni sent a text message to Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, a former colleague.

"How much do you love Nick Rallis?” Sirianni wrote.

The Eagles had just hired Rallis away from the Minnesota Vikings, where he was a fast-rising assistant linebackers coach. Despite his age, the Eagles thought he was ready for the next step.

And Zimmer agrees. Even though he’s not happy to be losing him.

"Yeah, I’m going to miss him,” Zimmer replied.

Rallis (RAWL-iss) was born on July 13, 1993, which makes him just 27 years old. That seems pretty shocking, for a 27-year-old to be leading an entire position group of professional athletes.

Overall, the Eagles have put together a very young coaching staff. Head coach Nick Sirianni is just 39, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is 38 and special teams coordinator Michael Clay is 29.

But at 27, Rallis is believed to be the youngest position coach in the entire league.

"I really like his energy. This guy loves football,” Sirianni said to the Eagles’ website earlier this offseason. "I just don’t know if there’s a better compliment than that. He eats, drinks and sleeps ball. He loves it. He loves it. And that’s contagious. And I can feel that. I can feel it. And just to hear him talk about linebacker play, he’s intense. He still looks like a linebacker, I’m not sure he still couldn’t play. I just think his ceiling is so high. He’s just gonna keep going [up]. He’s already a great coach but he’s just going to keep going [up] because he loves it. He loves what he does.”

The wunderkind

Yes, it’s shocking to think about a 27-year-old position coach. Rallis isn’t all that far removed from his playing days at the University of Minnesota.

In fact, Rallis was college teammates with Antoine Winfield Jr., who is coming off a fantastic rookie season for the Bucs. That’s how little time has passed since Rallis was still suiting up as a linebacker himself.

There are some decided advantages and disadvantages of being a young coach. On one hand, Rallis will have an easier time relating to his players. On the other, there is a lack of experience. And it could be challenging to earn the respect of players who are of a similar age.

Zimmer went through a similar experience. He was just 30 when his dad hired him to coach linebackers for the Vikings and he remembers being younger than his oldest player. So one of Zimmer’s first orders of business was to get veteran and Pro Bowler Chad Greenway on his side. Zimmer knew that if he got the best veteran to buy in, the other players would follow.

"The thing about football players is they just want to be the best they can be,” Zimmer said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The ones that are in it for their ego, they don’t last very long. You just have to show the players that you know what you’re talking about and communicate it in a really good manner and just earn their trust. Show them that you’re out for their best interest. It’s not about egos and being loud and boisterous. It’s about how can you get these players to be the best they can be.”

Perhaps the good news for Rallis is that the oldest linebacker on the Eagles’ roster is Alex Singleton, 27, who is just a few months younger than Rallis. The Eagles have an extremely young group of linebackers, but it’ll still be important for Rallis to prove to his new players that he belongs.

How should Rallis earn the trust of his new players?

"Just be himself,” said Eagles linebacker Eric Wilson, who knows Rallis from their time together in Minnesota. "Be the great coach that he is, be the great person that he is. Express the love for the game that he has the way that I’ve seen him do for the last couple years. He’s a great guy. I know he’s very excited for this opportunity. Even in the conversations that we’ve had throughout this process and even today, we were both excited, we were both passionate. It’s great.”

And it seems like his youngest players are already buying in.

The Eagles drafted JaCoby Stevens and Patrick Johnson with their last two picks in the 2021 draft. Both are linebackers who will be fighting for their jobs in training camp.

"He’s a guy that just wants to teach,” Johnson said. "Even though he’s teaching me, he’s also learning off of us. He’s a very, very smart guy. I can tell right off the bat when he’s teaching me, that he knows his stuff. Very, very high level. I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to teach me what I need to know in order to achieve my goals here being an Eagle.”

The beginning

Rallis played 26 games for the Minnesota Gophers from 2012-16, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Michael. You might know Michael better as Riddick Moss, now a WWE star.

The elder Rallis turned his football prowess into a career as a professional wrestler, but Nick Rallis was always destined to be a coach. After leaving college, Rallis became a quality control coach at Wake Forest for the 2017 season.

The Vikings were already in training camp in 2018 but they were looking for a low-level assistant. According to Zimmer, they "needed a guy who was really good on the computer.” A guy a year removed from college in Rallis fit that bill.

Rallis’s early responsibilities were helping with computer breakdowns and scouting future opponents. But the Vikings quickly realized how sharp he was and began to add responsibilities to his plate. Rallis would study opposing offensive lines, situational football, etc. And this past season, Rallis began installing the defense with the Vikings’ rookies in a season where that position group was decimated by injuries. Last season is where the Vikings really saw Rallis turning into a position coach.

"The more I was around him, the more I trusted him and gave him more responsibility to do things with our group,” Zimmer said. "He was just a sponge. He was always in the office and trying to learn as much as he could. He was always talking to the offensive coaches about the schemes and stuff. He was just impressive that way.”

Eat, drink, sleep football

The most interesting thing about Rallis might be his age.

And that’s not a bad thing.

"Other than football, he’s pretty boring,” Zimmer said. "He’s pretty much a homebody, but he studies football like crazy.”

It didn’t take Sirianni to get the same vibes from his new linebackers coach.

"He loves what he does,” Sirianni said to the Eagles’ website this offseason. "He’s going to be at home, his wife’s going to be trying to talk to him at home and he needs to talk to her, he needs to cut out time for her, but I just know he’s going to have his iPad right there watching the game while they watch The Bachelor or something like that.”

Zimmer said Rallis won’t be an in-your-face type of coach, nor will he be a rah-rah guy, but Rallis is a very good communicator. That served him well working with the players deeper on the Vikings’ depth chart.

Heck, Zimmer even said Rallis’s eye for talent stood out in the draft process too. Minnesota listened to Rallis when he’d give his evaluations on incoming players and even brought in some late-round guys and UDFAs that he found. That’s important to note this season after the Eagles used a sixth-round pick on Stevens and a seventh-round pick on Johnson.

The Eagles haven’t had great linebacker play for quite a long time and it’s been an annoyance to fans. This is a young group with potential in 2021.

It’ll be up to Rallis to help them live up to it.

"Nick Rallis, he’s a great football coach,” Wilson said. "I’ve been with him for several years now, I’ve known him. He’s a very passionate guy, high energy guy and a smart guy. He’s a great teacher. He’s helped me tremendously improve my skill set but also as a man and improve my wellbeing. It’s tremendous to have that opportunity to be able to work with him.”



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Normally, I'd say wait and see how the star veteran linebackers respond to him...but then I realize the Eagles don't have any of those. I'm sure he'll be fine trying to educate iron into gold while enjoying zero expectations to do it. I genuinely wish him the best. I hope he grows into a HOF coach and stays with the Eagles for a long, long time.

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