It was a pretty good homecoming for Mack Hollins, after all.
Hollins, a former star receiver at North Carolina, was drafted by Philadelphia in the fourth round of April’s NFL draft, so Thursday’s game was the first time he’s played in the state since. Hollins only had two catches, but they went for 38 yards, the third-most of anyone on the Eagles.
“I haven’t been back in a while,” Hollins said. “A lot of buddies were in the crowd, and it’s nice because it’s easier to pick them out when they’re wearing my Eagles jersey.”
At UNC, Hollins’ story became something of a fan favorite. He joined the team as a walk-on before developing into a special-teams ace, and into a starting receiver after that. He finished his career with the Tar Heels with 81 receptions for 1,667 yards and 20 touchdowns.
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And even though he didn’t find the end zone Thursday, he still was conscious of what it meant that he was playing at all.
“It’s a big change from college, because there’s no teams that aren’t good,” Hollins said. “So it’s always good making plays.”
If only Hollins had time to make a trip to Chapel Hill for the long weekend – he said he’s already getting ready for the next game.
Some other notes from Thursday’s 28-23 Panthers loss:
▪ Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount was the matchup to watch in Thursday’s game, and he delivered by pummeling Carolina on the ground. Blount hammered between the tackles and was even able to break through to the second level of the defense on several occasions. He finished with 14 rushes for 67, more than anyone else in the game except Cam Newton (11 carries for 71 yards).
“You come back in the huddle and they look at you like, ‘Yeah, this is what we want,’” Blount said of the pride the offense took in running the ball. “Next thing you know, you’ve got 11 guys ready to run through anything – boom.”
▪ Blount credited Carolina’s front seven as one of the best in the league, but he couldn’t say the same about the secondary, which Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz torched for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
“Eh,” Blount said of Carolina’s defensive backs. “The front seven is great, though.”
▪ Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had a homecoming of sorts himself. Jeffery is from St. Matthews, S.C., and played college football for South Carolina. He shone for the Gamecocks and then the Chicago Bears before signing with the Eagles this offseason. Against the Panthers, he had four catches for 71 yards.
“It felt good to be back, especially to get this win,” Jeffery said. “Go Gamecocks. Fly Eagles Fly.”