Eagles' Wolff has a hometown cheering section in Philadelphia

Cary Williams (26) and Wolff will be tasked with trying to stop Peyton Manning's high-octane Broncos offense.
Cary Williams (26) and Wolff will be tasked with trying to stop Peyton Manning's high-octane Broncos offense.
Posted: September 29, 2013

Grace Hogue leaned back in her russet armchair, primed with anticipation.

It was late April, the first night of the NFL draft. While her grandson, Earl Wolff, was home in North Carolina, both of them had their eyes glued to the same TV show.

They were anxiously awaiting Wolff's name to be called by an NFL team.

Hogue, 75, watched from her redbrick home at 20th Street and Glenwood Avenue, where she said she has lived for 48 years. It is the same place Wolff spent two weeks every summer between when he was 9 and his first season playing football at North Carolina State.

Wolff's mother, Sharon Davis, 53, was in the Army Reserves for three years before becoming a Master Sergeant in the National Guard for 27 years. And Wolff credits his grandmother for how he was raised.

"Basically, [Hogue] taught my mom everything she knows," said Wolff, a 5-foot-11, 210-pounder from Raeford, N.C.

The rookie may get his first NFL start at safety Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

"That's why I feel like my mom raised me right, all because of my grandma," Wolff said.

Finally, on the third day of the NFL draft, in the fifth round, the Eagles were on the clock. So Hogue paid attention to her hometown team.

As she gazed at her TV on that Saturday afternoon, not knowing what to expect, she was shocked.

The Eagles selected her grandson.

Hogue said she almost fell out of her armchair when she heard his name, and she screamed in her empty home.

"Ahhhhhhhh," was how it sounded, she said.

"I made some calls, a whole lot of calls," Hogue said with a big smile. "Everyone was happy for him. He's worked hard. He was happy."

When Wolff was younger and visited Philadelphia, Hogue would cook soul food on long summer afternoons. She would travel to Raeford, where he lived, on occasion to watch Wolff and his older sister and younger brother when his mother had to travel. Hogue would cook there, too, and she said that Wolff was a picky eater.

Back in Philadelphia, Wolff would play outside with his best friends, Eric, Erica, and Monique Majette, children from the family that lived three doors down on Glenwood. Wolff said they still keep in contact and that they were like "family to me." Neighbors said they remember Wolff for his "sweet spirit."

Although Hogue cared for Wolff often when she was in her 50s, she says she doesn't follow him much these days while he's on the football field.

"I am not a sports person," Hogue said as she sat in her living room with pictures of Wolff on a nearby shelf. "I just can't sit there and watch and watch."

But she never wavers in her support.

"I give him encouragement to keep on keeping on," she said. "I tell him to ask God to help you with everything you do because football ain't easy."

Wolff's uncle, Howard Hogue, 59, watched Wolff's college games when he could with his great uncle, Kenneth Athy, 71.

"I think he can be as good as Brian Dawkins," Howard Hogue said from his home two doors down from Grace Hogue. "He can do great things. I've watched him, and I see it."

During training camp, Wolff and the rest of the Eagles spent one Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field practicing in front of more than 20,000 fans, and Athy was there to watch his nephew.

Wolff had visited his grandmother before training camp had started, bringing her food and chatting about old times in the living room at 20th and Glenwood.

Hogue called it Wolff's "coming-home party."

"I expect big things, great things," Grace Hogue said. "I see it now, too. Earl Wolff, the safety. I just hope and pray that he stays how he is. Just trust in the Lord, and do the best you can."


@RealTylerTynes

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