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NFL Playoff Connection

James Urban ’96 with Michael Vick during training camp

With the National Football League playoffs beginning this weekend, it’s a fitting time to note the work that Washington and Lee alumnus James Urban, of the Class of 1996, has been doing as the quarterback coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

When W&L sports information director Brian Laubscher visited with James last August at the Eagles’ training camp in Bethlehem, Pa., nobody, including James, could have known the direction the season would take. As Brian wrote in his piece for the W&L magazine online, James was preparing Kevin Kolb to be the starting quarterback for the Eagles. Michael Vick, the No. 2 Philadelphia quarterback, was still in the background.

After missing three seasons while serving a 23-month sentence for his role in a dogfighting ring, Vick saw limited playing time in 2009. But, as even casual followers of the NFL know, he has been one of the league’s big stories this year. Not only are the Eagles hosting Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs, but Vick also ranks fourth among NFL quarterbacks and was the leading vote-getter from fans for the Pro Bowl.

And while a position coach like James might not get the spotlight, a lot of folks around Philadephia know that he has played a key role in Vick’s development this season. Something he told Brian back in August is worth repeating four months later: “My approach with Michael from the very beginning has been to get him back to being an elite quarterback in this league. When you are away from the game for two years, particularly at the quarterback position, there is a lot of rust that needs to be knocked off, and he probably never quite got there during the regular season last year.”

On ESPN radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” on Friday, Eagles head coach Andy Reid credited James, along with Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator, Marty Morningwheg, with the development and success of Vick this season.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for James during the telecast of Sunday’s game, you’ll be able to see him only if the cameras shoot up at the press box. He spends his Sundays on headphones.

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