McNabb's roots trace to the South Side of Chicago, where Obama worked as a community organizer in the late '80s. McNabb said when he met Obama at a White House dinner in 2005, the senator mentioned having followed McNabb's career since he was in high school at private Mount Carmel, not far from where Obama lived.
Inspiration from Obama's victory resonated deeply within the Eagles locker room, where currently 64 players dress, including practice-squad and injury-list members. Forty-three of those 64 are African-American.
McNabb said he was a first-time voter, having finally registered this year, as he approaches his 32nd birthday, Nov. 25. Sometimes athletes don't vote because they aren't registered where they play; weakside linebacker Omar Gaither said he took advantage of the North Carolina early-voting option and cast his ballot for Obama back home in Charlotte during the bye week.
"Because Barack was in this election, it made me want to [make a special effort to] vote," Gaither said. "I'm not even going to deny that."
Free safety Brian Dawkins said he stayed up until about 2 a.m. watching TV coverage. Dawkins, who grew up in Jacksonville, said, "I thought about some of the stories my granddaddy told me before he passed, of how things were. Things my father told me about, about the way things were. Things that he kind of sheltered me from, my father, that is, the racism that is around. To live to see this day, to see an African-America as the president . . . maybe 40 years ago, in the '60s, there is no way possible you would ever think something like this could happen. But here it is. Here he is.''
Dawkins said he figured he could grow up to be a football player because he saw people "who looked like me and talked like me'' playing football for a living.
"You hear people say, 'I want to be a doctor' because you've seen doctors that are African-American. 'I want to be a lawyer' because you see lawyers that are African-Americans. But people who say, when you are little, 'I want to be president,' the likelihood of that happening was not high, but now it is,'' Dawkins said. "Not just for African-Americans, but for minorities in general.
"Women were thought of as objects. Now, you had an African-American and a woman running in the same race . . . We have yet a long way to go, but I'll tell you what, we've come a long way as a nation. One of the memories I will always hold from this election, when he was announced [Tuesday night], was the stage. You saw African-Americans. You saw his [running mate, Vice President-elect Joe Biden], a white American.
"You saw everything on that stage. Shaking hands, loving each other and having respect for one another. And then, they showed the pictures in the stands as people were celebrating, and you saw the same thing, people with tears. African-Americans, whites, Latin-Americans, you had everybody all happy and celebrating, and I just never thought that I would be alive to see that, I really did not. So, this is huge. It's emotional for me to see that, to know that that's the America that we live in now. I couldn't have said that 30 years ago, but that's the America that we live in today.''
McNabb also said he was stirred by Obama's speech, delivered around midnight from Chicago's Grant Park.
"It was historic,'' McNabb said. "He's such a great speaker. It reminded me of, obviously, when Martin Luther King [Jr.] spoke, and the messages that he spoke about. It was so similar. He's a wonderful speaker, and he really reached out. As a man, if you teared up, it was acceptable, because it was that deep.''
McNabb and defensive end Darren Howard agreed with Dawkins, saying that they never thought this would happen in their lifetimes.
"Growing up and seeing and hearing how some people may feel about having an African-American president, I didn't think it was possible,'' said McNabb, who has said he thinks he is held to a higher standard than white quarterbacks. "But when you have an individual who, people have truly looked past his skin color, and just listened to his thoughts, and what his game plan is of what he wants to do in office, and how he would go about it - that's the positive thing that I think people should truly focus on; how people have looked past his skin color.''
McNabb said he related to what Obama went through during the campaign.
"For people to make assumptions without even talking to the guy or getting to know him, it's similar to everything that I've been through,'' McNabb said. "Obviously, it's on a different level with him, because he's the president of the United States, but I just watched the way he handled it - standing strong up there, continuing not to get rattled. In that situation, it's easy to get rattled and try to fire back, but he continued to stay even-keeled, and stayed focused on his plan and his goal.''
Brian Westbrook said he used to wonder why his mother watched speeches and debates; he wasn't interested. But over the past few years, he said, he has come to understand "that it affects all of us in some way . . . I think it means a lot to everyone to have some change coming up soon.''
Westbrook acknowledged he tried to stay awake until Obama spoke Tuesday night, but fell asleep a few minutes too soon. He said his interest was partly "because of Obama, but I think I probably paid more attention to it because I'm getting older. You start to see these things a little bit differently. You start paying taxes and stuff like that.''
Of course, higher-bracket taxpayers such as "Brian the ballcarrier,'' who signed a 3-year, $21 million revision to his contract earlier this season, might pay more under Obama's tax plan.
"If we could find a way to lower taxes for everybody, it would be great, but I think one of the things that Obama tried to mention is [the need to work] for the greater good, and opportunity for everybody to get better . . . hopefully, that will happen,'' Westbrook said. *