Perseverance pays off for former Navy star

New Orleans Saints running back Kyle Eckel stretches out during practice on Jan. 21. For the second time in his NFL career, Eckel is heading to the Super Bowl. (Bill Haber / Staff)

New Orleans Saints running back Kyle Eckel stretches out during practice Jan. 21. For the second time in his NFL career, Eckel is heading to the Super Bowl. (Bill Haber / Staff)

Why is this man smiling?

Because he’s going to the Super Bowl. Again.

Former Navy running back Kyle Eckel punched his ticket to Miami along with the rest of his Saints’ teammates Sunday as New Orleans won a 31-28 overtime thriller over the Minnesota Vikings to win the NFC title.

For Eckel, a 2005 graduate of the Naval Academy, it was hardly a smooth journey back to the Super Bowl. Twice this season he was cut — first by the Philadelphia Eagles and then by the Saints — before being re-signed by the Saints late in the year. Despite being unemployed for parts of the last two regular seasons, Eckel is now fresh off his third conference championship game in as many years, and is set to appear in the second Super Bowl of his career.

Eckel’s first appearance in the Super Bowl came in the 2007-08 season. He had the best statistical year of his career on the Patriots squad that went undefeated before losing the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots released him before the 2008 season, and he was later signed by the Eagles in the middle of that year. The Philadelphia area native  appeared in five regular season games for the Eagles as well as all three of their playoff games.

The Philadelphia Inquirer caught up with Eckel before the NFC Championship game. The journeyman fullback told the paper that he’s embraced the underdog mentality in order to weather the setbacks that have come with his pursuit of a career in the NFL.

“The underdog atmosphere that surrounds me has really been a motivating factor,” Eckel said. “Even when I don’t realize it’s there, I think that’s certainly one of the key components of my success.”

In the article Eckel also talks about how he kept busy between NFL gigs by working at a Philadelphia radio station. He said he “had a blast” working in radio, and judging by this very NSFW video showing one of his days as an intern at WMMR, it’s not hard to imagine why.


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  1. If he graduated from the Naval Academy in 2005, how is he already done with his 5-year service commitment? Oh, that’s right, he was kicked out of the Navy in 2006. This guy was “having a blast” while his classmates were in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t think this is the type of person the Military Times should be showcasing.

  2. I definitely agree with Mr. X. As active duty Navy and a PS, an involuntary Administrative Discharge is not something the United States Navy should be proud of, let alone advertising his work ethic outside of the Navy.

  3. Eckel gets kicked out of the Navy. Yet he gets a shoutout on Navytimes. A midshipman gets retained at the Academy even though he popped positive for marijuana – he plays football.
    This article as well as the decision to retain the midshipman shows a favoring of football players and reveals a double standard. It seems they can do whatever they want, like drugs or not serve their commitment, as long as they post good stats or make it to the Super Bowl.
    Of course, there are phenomenal mids who play football and less than acceptable mids who do not, but regulations ought to be universal.

  4. All 3 of you guys sound really Joe Navy. Just because these guys are not squeaky clean, you all are saying they shouldn’t get any shine. I have a couple more days left in, and will be glad to not be associated with people that think like you 3 nimrods.

  5. Mr. Man, is there any way you could leave sooner, I don’t want you in my Navy.

    As a USNA grad I am more and more disgusted with the institution. Athletes are treated with double standards. Most mids understand the hypocrisy and they become cynical. We sponsor a mid and he tells us what a joke the place has become with the double standards.

  6. OMG, These guys are totally Joe navy. It’s amazing how differently people not in the service act compared to peole in uniform, we are not better or worse than this guy. Yeah, goin to iraq and what not is really cool. Its not any better than this football player making 9x any of our salaries. I’m not speaking for myself when I say: Most…MOST people like Mr. s, Mr y, and Mr x, joined the service for a reason. That reason is yet to be determined but it’s got something to do with feeling important! And whats this “My Navy” crap? Enough already, its not your navy. The Navy belongs to the United States of America!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Having served 30 years in the Navy, I can’t say that there is anything in Kyle Eckel’s character that is worth emulating. I would not consider him an underdog. I would say he is a dirty dog who is a discredit to the Navy uniform he was privileged to wear for a short period. He’s been on some great teams – USNA, Philly, Patriots, Saints. But, as we all know – he is a POOR teammate. I don’t want him on the battlefield any more that on the football field. And Tony, it’s not your Navy – it’s mine and also belongs to those who have served honorably. You don’t get to claim it for America.

  8. Sorry big Mike, Didn’t realize you patented the Navy all by yourself. I do beleive I served my country honorably last time I glanced at my DD-214. Also, How do we know he is a poor teammate? Are you his agent? Did you play with him on any of those teams? If you served 30, then probably not. Typical for a senior fellow like yourself to pass judgment on a guy you don’t even know. God forbid anybody makes a mistake right? We all need to be exactly like you Mike, just a tough nose sailor who got 30 in and retired. Way to be above me and everyone else! YOU are the reason many fellow sailors are failing at a alarming rate. You guys get to the top early and forget that everyone can’t be perfect. Willing to bet you screwed some shipmates over at mast bigtime by flipping your story at the last minute. Everyone said it was not smart to seperate as a E-6 at 7years but if I had to meet you, I would have probably got out sooner. Good luck in your retirement!

  9. We all make mistakes in life. I hope Mr. Eckel learns from his and is a better person for it. I just don’t think a publication that caters to a military audience should be spotlighting someone who failed to honor the commitment he made to the Navy and his shipmates. I don’t expect perfection from anyone, I just expect your best effort and an understanding that the mission and your shipmates are more important than your personal self-interest. If you’re not prepared to demonstrate that, you’re not really someone I want the public to associate with this organization. Nothing personal, there’s lots of cash and glory to be had outside the armed forces and if that’s what someone chooses to do with their life I wish them well.

  10. It is clear there are some raw emotions associated with this situation. I agree that he did not honor his commitment. The reasons are unknown and the best we can do is speculate that he did not live up to the high standards demanded of an active duty member. Fair enough that there are those who feel he should not be spotlighted in a military publication. Cleary his Coach at the USNA is still a supporter and that should count also. However, can we not celebrate the fact that he did make it to the largest stage for football? No matter what else he has proven he can be a professional member of a very good team (make that 2 – USNA and the Saints). For the record I left Navy ROTC as a sophomore during the 70’s, and although actively recruited by AFROTC, declined and went on the build military jets. Not sure if that disqualifies me from contributing here.

  11. I think that some of you took this a little close to heart. I don’t think what he did was correct and i find it double as troubling that the article is giving him props. What happened about how he got what he wanted, which was to be out the navy, was brushed under the rug. What usually sounds fishy and wrong is. But at the end of the day i don’t care about this guy or what he did.

  12. Pingback: Military Sports Report - After Action – Eckel still mum about getting booted from the Navy

  13. This guy is a disgrace to the USNA and the Navy. Shame on the football happy administration that let him skate by at the Naval Academy long enough to graduate and become the Navy’s problem. What a waste.

  14. He graduated dead last in the class from USNA, was in trouble numerous times while he was there, but was able to stay while others with similar infractions were booted. The football team brings in tons of money to the school and money talks. I’m sure his navy career went the same way outside of USNA and after pleading to be released, the brass decided that the Navy would be better off with him not making decisions that affect junior sailors lives.

  15. Pingback: Military Sports Report - After Action – Former USNA star Eckel signs with Broncos; Ballard might be next?

  16. I served in-country for 2 tours…brown water Navy…purple heart…so I think I have a right to comment….

    Eckel may not have been the ideal Navy officer, but he doesn’t deserve to be disparaged by those who do not know him. His teammates and coaches think well of him, and that says a lot. One Marine LT even said he’d like someone like Eckel to his left or right going into combat.

    “nough said….

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