Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Eagles
Photograph courtesy Philadelphia Eagles

Too tense to breathe, Joe Douglas, ’99, split his focus between the football field and the game clock during the last few seconds of this February’s Super Bowl LII. The moment New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s last-gasp Hail Mary attempt hit the ground, Douglas looked up at the game clock — 00:00. No minutes left. No seconds left. Game over. Philadelphia Eagles 41, Patriots 33.

“I looked back, and no one had the ball in hand,” says Douglas (at left in photo), vice president of player personnel for the reigning Super Bowl champions. “I did that three times to make sure that we really did win this game.”

This wasn’t the first time the former Spider offensive tackle and 1998 all-conference honoree anxiously stood on the sidelines of a Super Bowl. Douglas, a suburban Richmond native, was also instrumental in the Baltimore Ravens winning the 2001 and 2013 championships.

“[The Eagles] were the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but no one viewed us that way,” he says. “No one gave the team the shot to win the championship.”

Joe Douglas with Eagles owner Jeffrey LurieThis is no exaggeration. Most pre-season prognosticators pegged the Eagles as a .500 or so team. Few had them even making the playoffs, let alone winning it all.

Leading underdog teams to the Super Bowl three times isn’t a lucky streak for Douglas, a man of few words and an uncanny sense for talent that translates to success on the field and an ability to analyze people and situations.

That comes in handy in his role with the Eagles, where his duties include evaluating players through the NFL and the college ranks, assembling the team’s roster, and signing players to contracts.

“Joe is a tremendous person, incredibly smart and hardworking,” says Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations. “He has great leadership ability and a great eye for talent. His strength is his ability to build a team and to articulate his vision through his scouts. For him it’s all about the people and being around good people. That’s a reflection of who he, his wife, and family are.”

When the former high school football standout started at Richmond, he never gave “much thought to life after football,” he says. “I thought I would play at Richmond and have a career in the NFL. I wasn’t thinking about the odds.”

His first-semester performance in the classroom suffered until then-Spider football head coach Jim Reid intervened.

“He was an old-school coach, very demanding,” Douglas says. “Discipline meant a lot to him. That changed my life at Richmond. He whipped me back into shape physically and academically. He was tough, but it was what I needed.”

Realizing he wasn’t going to play for the NFL, Douglas chose to pursue personnel scouting.

“I wanted to go somewhere and learn,” he says, explaining why he spent 15 years with the Ravens. “I wanted to stay in one place and get as much knowledge as I could.”

His passion for the game, coupled with his natural instincts, insight, and down-to-earth attitude, has put him on the short list of potential NFL general managers. But that’s not on his mind at the moment.

As someone who helped end the Eagles’ Super Bowl drought, Douglas understands how much the team means to the city of Philadelphia, where 73,000 fans packed into Lincoln Financial Field to celebrate when the team brought the Lombardi trophy home to Philadelphia.

“The intensity scale was through the roof,” he says. “To see that energy and that love and passion in the moment was an exciting feeling.”

The 2018 season this fall will be different because they are now the team to beat.

“We are going from the hunter to the hunted,” he says. “Each day and each week every team is loading up to beat us and say they are better than us. It’s going to require a different mindset and even more focus.”

Joan Tupponce is a freelance writer based in Richmond.