The Eagles were busy this offseason, and their additions have them growing as favorites to make noise in the NFC. But they’ve also been busy away from the gridiron, making noise as champions for change in the community. One of their veteran spokesmen, fourth-year running back Miles Sanders, has been witness to both the on- and off-field work.
Sanders is entering a critical juncture of his NFL career, entering a contract year as the Eagles’ primary ball-carrier, but he’s also hunting a Walter Payton Man of the Year award, as the league’s top community difference-maker. This July, he’ll host his first-ever youth football camp at The Wolvarena, his old high school field in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, for 250 kids ages 6-13, all of them admitted free of charge. He’s also been a catalyst for the Eagles’ work to end gun violence and has visions of youth-centric infrastructure in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas.
With training camp around the corner, Sanders spoke with CBS Sports about the Eagles’ moves on and off the field, his future in Philadelphia, his mom’s business influence, and more:
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’re a Pennsylvania athlete through and through, going from Woodland Hills to Penn State to the Eagles. But your contract expires after this year. Do you expect to be back in Philadelphia after 2022?
Sanders: Hey man, whatever happens, happens. I love Philadelphia as a city. I love the Eagles as a program. I love the fans. I hope the fans love me back. I would love to stay in Philadelphia, and that’s all I got to say.
How about the Steelers? You wouldn’t even have to leave the state.
Sanders: Hey, like I say, whatever happens, whoever wants to bless me and change my life again, then yeah, it’s whatever. I’m with whatever, if that’s what happens.
Sanders: Oh man. We all feel like we’re on an all-star team, so we feel great. We feel unstoppable, I’m not gonna lie. The vibes are great, always have been. Nick Sirianni is doing a great job just keeping the vibes right, the chemistry good. We compete a lot in practice. But we’ve gotta see. Its gonna come down to camp, taking it day by day, putting everything together.
Your mother, Marlene, is helping you host your first Youth Football Camp this summer. Can you describe her involvement, and why it’s so important to you?
Sanders: She’s been involved with everything since I started with this football stuff. She’s been educating herself, from Little League to now. She was there when I was going into high school learning that I have to do well in school to get into college, no matter how talented I am, no matter how many stars (I had). She was there when I was going to Penn State and had to have a certain GPA. When I finally got to college, she was educating herself on the agents, all that stuff, and before going to college, she’s the one with me doing interviews. She’s actually interviewing the coaches. They were trying to recruit me and my mom’s over there asking them tough questions. So she always knew what was going on. She’s just awesome.
So it sounds like your mom will be negotiating your contract with the Eagles?
Sanders: Yeah, hopefully, but trust me, they don’t want her. They would be nervous.
Off the field, the Eagles have been outspoken about ending gun violence. How have you personally contributed to that cause as you look to build your community involvement?
Sanders: We had a conversation, the (team) leadership council, which led to the Wear Orange (awareness campaign). But I said a couple things in the meeting that brought a lot of attention to people. I’m like, yeah, we can try to get people to buy guns back and sell old guns, but that’s not the problem. The problem is these laws. These kids are able to buy guns at a young age. You don’t even need a gun license. So I told them we need to, instead of just me personally, use the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire team’s platform, to do whatever we can to get into these conversations.
How have your personal experiences influenced your passion for the cause?
Sanders: I’ve seen it. I’ve seen too many people that I went to school with or played football with just — now they’re either behind bars or dead. I can’t even count on my hands anymore. It’s just too many. It’s too many.
You’re also looking to change the culture by providing your inaugural Youth Football Camp for free. What will your involvement be at the camp, and who else is coming?
Sanders: Ya’ll gonna think I’m in the camp, too. I’m a big kid when I get around kids, so I will be very active, doing everything these kids want me to do. I’ll also be having some teammates there. Nick Sirianni and DeVonta Smith might be on my invite list, so we’re gonna see if they come.
You’ve said one of your NFL goals is to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. What other steps are you taking to expand your reach in the community?
Sanders: There’s a lot more I wanna do. I wanna go into the community and build certain buildings where parents and young adults can go and get information about financials — real estate, taxes, credit, all that — because we grow up not learning that stuff in high school. Just to educate the community. I wanna build YMCA-type buildings where kids, instead of going out in the street, can go play basketball, go play football, anything you can do to keep these kids off the streets. I don’t wanna just do stuff in the football atmosphere. … It’s a vision, it’s a big vision right now, but we have been taking steps into making it happen. I’m getting my foundation finished, so everything’s moving.