Eagles Players Show Great Heart On Their Unforgettable Journey to the Super Bowl
Two young fans looked up at Philadelphia Eagles Defensive End Bryan Braman with adoring eyes during a recent stop on their journey to the Big Game.
Sporting midnight green jerseys, the adorable Izabella Perekupka, 6, and her sister, Isla, 4, nearly the same age as Braman’s two young daughters, clearly had a severe case of Eagles Fever and were totally smitten with Braman and his teammate, Eagles Tight End Billy Brown.
The occasion was this week’s taping of “Healthy Lifestyle With Eraldo,” a cable TV show that focuses on health and fitness that the girls attended with their mom, Jennifer. Their mom was thrilled with the mutual admiration society. “I loved to see how sweet and down to earth they were and how Bryan got down to my kids’ level and related to them, especially because he is a dad himself,” Jennifer said. “The girls had an amazing experience; this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet not only a NFL player, but perhaps a Super Bowl champion.”
Growing up in South Philly, football has always been a part of the extended Perekupka family. “It’s pretty pivotal. We live right by the stadium, and I grew up with people around me who were always into football,” Jennifer said, “so it’s always been a big part of our lives.”
To show the family’s allegiance, and not being willing to take any chances to buck their superstitions, she explained that “everybody in the family, including my husband, Andrew, has to wear exactly what they wore during the last game when they watch the Super Bowl.”
The proud mom says she appreciates how her girls are getting into football and watching the games. “My older daughter wants to learn all about the game. It’s nice she is developing a little passion. She asked if she could play football and I told her she could do anything that she wants to.”
While appreciating all of the attention during the recent event, Braman said he was humbled by the opportunity and all of the attention.In fact, Braman, a 6-foot-5-inch, 241-pound defensive end, from humble beginnings, shifted the spotlight off of himself and onto the Autism Cares Foundation, a Suburban Philadelphia non-profit organization that provides more than 200 annual free social events and programs for children, teens and adults with autism.
On Tuesday, Jan. 23, Braman and Brown autographed footballs for Linda Kuepper, Co-Founder and CEO of the Autism Cares Foundation. These items will be auctioned off at the non-profit group’s 10th “Diamond” Anniversary Spring Gala & Auction on April 21, in Bucks County, PA.
“God bless you both for doing this,” an emotional Kuepper told the two players as they posed for photos and talked about football and children with special needs. In response, Braman quickly replied, “God bless you for what you do for these kids.”
Kuepper added that the kindness shown by Braman and Brown to her and the Autism Cares Foundation was memorable. “It truly touched my heart that they were willing to sign the footballs for the Autism Cares Foundation,” she said. “It really showed what the Eagles players are made of and meant the world to us.”
At WMCN in Cherry Hill, N.J., TV talk show host Eraldo Maglara said that like these two young girls, and practically everyone else in the Tri-State area, he is caught up in Eagles Super Bowl Fever, and a little awe-struck by his recent guests. He was joined by his special guest host, author and Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ) star Kathy Wakile.
“The fans really, really need this, and they’re amazing, amazing fans,” said Maglara. “I think the Eagles are going to do tremendously well in the game and the support of their fan base is going to be crucial. The fans deserve this so much.”
The two players were at the event with their agent Sean Stellato, who called the upcoming Super Bowl “the greatest sporting event of the year.” He is the author of “No Backing Down,” the inspirational story of the 1994 Salem High School Football Team.
When asked for his advice to aspiring athletes who want to be in the Super Bowl one day, Stellato responded: “Live in the moment. Stay humble and just do the work. Surround yourself with positive people. We all need mentors, so try to model and emulate the people who came before you. As we all know, history repeats itself.”
Stellato, a Bostonian, has one simple hope for the Super Bowl, since he also represents players on the New England Patriots: “I just want to see a great game. I want to see all of my guys give it every ounce that they have.”
Braman, also known as Eagles Number 50, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, was signed as a special team player by the Houston Texans in the middle of the 2011 season, and became a fan favorite in the three seasons that he played there.
He spent the next three years with the Eagles, before being signed by the New Orleans Saints in March 2017. He was released in September of that year, just in time to come back to the Eagles, and help them get to the Super Bowl.
Braman, the 30-year-old doting father of two daughters, Marlowe Mae, 2, and Blakely, 4, said that he is passionate about fatherhood, and loves being able to share his team’s recent win and Super Bowl journey with them.The following is an exclusive pre-Super Bowl interview with Braman about family, football, being a role model, giving back and advice for young children.
How are you doing?
Bryan Braman: I couldn’t be in any better head space right now.
That is great, please tell me why.
BB: Obviously, Super Bowl LII, it’s unbelievable. What is it 13 years since the last time the Eagles have gone? Obviously, a lifelong goal for anybody that plays in the NFL and just a humongous stage.
Do you have a message for your fans who are clearly experiencing Eagles Fever? What does all of this love feel like?
BB: It’s unbelievable. The city of Philadelphia definitely deserves it. I think it’s great for the city and we’re going to give all of our fans a good game.
You have been talking about healthy living today and part of that has to do with sleep. Have you had trouble sleeping since the big win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night?
BB: It’s been difficult. Just because my mind’s running a million miles a minute, obviously, trying to take care of family and make sure that everybody I love and hold dear to me is able to share the experience with me.
How much of it is adrenaline out there?
BB: On the field? I’d have to say a little bit of pre-workout and mostly adrenaline. I can’t even imagine. I’m going to have to really talk to myself and make sure I don’t hyperventilate because I’m one of those crazy guys that really get worked up before the games. Sometimes, I’ll be seeing spots before I’m actually out there on the field, so I just try to stay calm and keep on.
What do you do mentally to prepare for something like the Super Bowl? Let’s be honest, the Super Bowl is a football game. It’s just marketing that makes it so big with all of the media hype.
BB: That’s probably the biggest thing you have to concentrate on is making sure that the obligations the organization has with the media and everything that comes along with the Super Bowl, doesn’t actually interrupt the way that you mentally prepare for the football game because that doesn’t change. It’s just all the outside attention and media. Obviously, the platform of being such a huge game.
Well, talking about preparing mentally for this, what kind of focus is entailed?
BB: As a football player, you really know how to go about it. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone to the playoffs back in 2011 and 2012 with the Houston Texans and I feel like that’s kind of helped prepare me as far as the atmosphere and everything else goes.
Please tell me more about them.
BB: But, trying to soak in all of the sights and the energy and everything is definitely going to be a new experience on this level, but I feel like just keeping your head calm, just not making it any bigger than it actually is. Knowing that I’ve been doing this for a really long time. It’s nothing new, I don’t have to change anything that I’ve done up to this point to get me here. I just need to make sure that I focus on myself, to be the best I can be and to just shine.
Talk to me about game day meals.
BB: So, they actually cater for us. I’m sure they’ll have some amazing food for us it’ll be a couple hours, actually it’s probably a lot earlier before the game that I would actually prefer to eat. By the time second half comes I’m already starving and ready to eat again. I’m sure they’ll take care of us.
Does it change during these two weeks or is it the exact same thing, you try to stay in the exact same mode as you did all through the season, all through the playoffs?
BB: Yeah, so there’s going to be a lot of media and stuff like that there. There’s going to be a lot of things that we’re going to have to do as far as the obligations go that the organization has planned for us when we get there. But, as far as the preparation and the work goes, it all stays the same. Really just trying to make sure that you don’t allow those distractions from the obligations that the organization have for you to really play into the work schedule.
Or take up your energy.
Were you a little nervous during the Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship game when they scored first?
BB: Never nervous. We prepared for that game like none other and we’re going to do the same thing for the Super Bowl. Good things and bad things are going to happen. They get paid just like we get paid and it’s the NFL, it’s always going to be competitive especially in this atmosphere. Those guys definitely didn’t come into the game to just play the game. They came into the game like we did, to win. That’s the point that everybody was trying to make and we just – we had to calm down, make our adjustments and take it from there.
Would you want your two young daughters to go into sports?
BB: Yeah, I would definitely want them in sports. I would probably prefer them to go a different route than the physical, degrading sport of football, but probably more guaranteed money in the contracts as well, but I’m going to support my kids in anything they do. Do your daughters come to the Eagles games?
BB: They do, and that’s why we were running a little late today, because we actually found out all the hotel and travel information. So, I wanted to make sure that my family was taken care of, that we had all the plans, and everything worked out because they’re coming from Austin, Texas. They’re not actually here in Philadelphia, so there’s a little bit of extra planning that goes into it to make sure that they’re there, so they can experience it with me.
When you saw your four-year-old daughter after the win, what did she say?
BB: She said, ‘Good game, Daddy.’ It just hit me so hard that I actually broke down in tears. It was a good feeling. I know she doesn’t really understand the game that much but to hear those words come from her means a lot. Over the last four or five years, it’s definitely been the majority of what I do for her and her sister.
How important is it to have family there rooting for you, wearing the Eagles team jerseys and just being there for you?
BB: You know; they are your support system and they have a lot to do with why you do it and how you came about doing it yourself. It’s as much of a payoff for them as it is for me. The energy that it brings for me, obviously, knowing they’re in the stands watching me, the support and the love, that gives me a little bit of extra energy, and oomph to go out there and really lay the hat.
What kind of dad are you?
BB: Totally hands on. I love my daughters more than the world itself. I love spending time with them. They love the zoo, and we do outings like that as much as possible. They love jumping parks, and my girls are actually quite athletic for their ages; four and two. So, my aim is being able to get them outside as much as possible, like I was when I was a kid. I truly love being able to do all that stuff with them
What is your advice for children who see you as a role model?
BB: Yeah, you have to listen to yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will. So, just know what you want, make sure that you put 100 percent of your effort into it. Don’t allow any of the naysayers or the outsiders to tell you that you can’t do it. Just pursue your dreams; and never give up!