Not many players of any stature have gotten to do that lately. Donovan McNabb didn't. Brian Dawkins didn't. The Birds' last long-term rock at right tackle, Jon Runyan, not only started his career with Houston/Tennessee, but Runyan, an integral Eagle from 2000-08, also had to finish up wearing San Diego powder blue.
Herremans, moved to right tackle during training camp last August after an injury to free agent signee Ryan Harris, has played 95 games as an Eagle. He is as big a part of the fabric of the current team as Runyan was during the NFC Championship Game years, even if Herremans' after-the-whistle exploits are less notorious. If center Jamaal Jackson moves on as expected this offseason, Herremans and his fellow 2005 classmates, defensive end Trent Cole and defensive tackle Mike Patterson, will be the longest-tenured Birds, with Cole also expected to sign an extension at any moment. Defensive end Juqua Parker, a free-agent addition as training camp was getting under way in '05, is expected to move on in free agency.
"Todd's intelligence, toughness, durability and leadership are second to none," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement, lauding the man he has entrusted to protect Michael Vick's blind side. "Very few players in the NFL can play at an extremely high level at both the guard and tackle positions and Todd has done that for us. He has been a big part of the success of our offense over the last several years."
Herremans, 29, has a City Line Avenue-area home, out near St. Joe's, and he owns an Old City bar-restaurant with tight end Brent Celek, another guy who has become a franchise pillar. Herremans was a Daily News "Sexy Single" in 2008, and has become a visible athlete-about-town, except he says most Philadelphians still aren't quite sure who he is when they see him without a No. 79 jersey.
"When people see me, they're like, 'That guy's big! He must do something,' " Herremans said yesterday. "They're not like, [falsetto voice], 'Oh, you catch touchdowns! You run the ball!' "
Even here, where the Eagles are as big as any NFL team in any city in the league, an offensive lineman can be fairly anonymous. Herremans gets Philadelphia, though, something not every athlete who lands here does.
"It's a blue-collar city," he said. "You don't have to get too dressed up to go anywhere. It's a hard-working city . . . I would love to be able to finish my career in Philadelphia. The city has been awesome to me. I don't get a lot of negativity from anybody, really, and it's just been a lot of fun to play here. I want to be on the team that brings a Super Bowl to Philadelphia."
Other than being blue-collar, Philly isn't much like his population-1,200 hometown of Ravenna, Mich., Herremans said.
"Here, people will walk through the streets and not really say too much to each other," Herremans said. "They're all on their way somewhere . . . In Michigan, it's a little more slowed-down. People will be walking by each other on the street, 'Hey! How are you doing! How's the family!' "
The drama-club standout from a high school football team that counted 19 guys in uniform his senior year grew up figuring he'd spend his entire life in Michigan, he said yesterday. When he first got to Philadelphia, he might have thrown himself into big-city life a little too wholeheartedly. There were a few disciplinary benchings and an arrest for driving without headlights late one night at Lehigh in 2009, when Parker was riding with Herremans and marijuana was found in Herremans' van.
"I went through some things when I was younger . . . Getting into the NFL, getting all this money and just kind of not really growing up yet," said Herremans, who since has sold the flat-black, vintage Econoline that looked like the sort of thing a police officer might want to investigate. "It's just kind of something I went through. It's not there anymore. This [contract] is showing that [his maturation] has happened the right way."
On the first day of free agency, when Eagles fans waited in vain for word of big-time signings, Herremans gave the status quo a strong plug.
"I don't think the team we fielded last year was missing anything, talentwise. I don't think our coaching staff was missing anything, I don't think the players on the field were missing anything," he said. "I just think we were like the first day of school, you don't know anybody in your class. You've just gotta kinda feel out who you're going to get along with to sit by, who's going to let you cheat off of 'em, and all that kind of stuff. As the season went on, we started coming together a lot better.
"We really feel like we won't need any extra pieces brought to us this free agency - we feel like the team we had in the locker room can make a great run and get to the Super Bowl this year, but that's not how it's going to work, I'm sure there's going to be tweaks here and there."
We don't know what the Eagles are planning, but we can be pretty sure they won't be signing a new right tackle. Like you, Herremans noticed that the Texans dumped standout right tackle Eric Winston this week. Herremans knows that with 2 years left on the 8-year extension he signed as a second-year player in 2006, he is fortunate to get this deal. It's a solid sign of his status.
"I keep looking on ESPN every day, and I see veterans all around the league getting cut, [teams are] trying to make cap space. There's good players being released," Herremansa said. "With the free-agent market right now being so flooded, I just feel real excited that the Eagles are willing to make this move with me."
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.
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