When Kenneth Gainwell told reporters that he grew up a Philadelphia Eagles fan, everyone knew the electric kid from Memphis was going to be popular. He is All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox’s cousin after all, but that’s not the reason why he started bleeding green.
No, the 22-year-old Mississippi native used to watch Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb shred defenses as a youngster. They were wearing midnight green jerseys so he wanted to wear one, too. Now Gainwell will be doing just that every Sunday while calling Cox his new teammate in the NFL.
The Eagles drafted the speedy running back — 4.44 in the 40-yard dash — in the fifth round (150th overall) in this year’s draft. He’ll sit behind Miles Sanders on the depth chart, although he’s ready to “carry the load” if called upon.
Kenneth Gainwell! Fletcher Cox’s cousin. Love this pick for the Eagles
— Colleen Wolfe (@ColleenWolfe) May 1, 2021
“I feel like I can carry the load with being a guy that can carry a heavy load. It’s all from the heart,” Gainwell told reporters on draft day. “It’s time to put in the work. Getting drafted first, getting drafted at the fifth, it don’t really matter about all that. I am ready to ball for the Eagles.”
Gainwell was a dual-threat at Memphis where he tallied 2,212 career all-purpose yards: 1,550 rushing yards (14 touchdowns), 662 receiving yards (three scores). He opted out of the 2020 college football season due to COVID-19 concerns.
“The next week after I opted out I started training and I’ve been working out ever since,” Gainwell said. “It’s been basically six months for me working out straight, non-stop.”
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) May 1, 2021
The latest Eagles news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Eagles newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Eagles!
No Straight Comparison, ‘Rare Breed’
Gainwell has experience playing a bunch of different skill positions, too. He was a three-year starter at quarterback for Yazoo County High School in Mississippi. He spent time at wide receiver and returned kicks while accounting for 8,412 total yards and 108 career touchdowns, doubly impressive when you consider his smallish frame. Now measuring 5-foot-8 and weighing 201 pounds, the diminutive running back revealed that he loved Darren Sproles as a youngster.
“Growing up, I mean, I used to love Darren Sproles. My favorite, favorite running back,” Gainwell said. “He kind of put the inspiration on me. Short guys, fast guys, that’s what they use. So, I mean, that kind of motivated me.”
Nick Sirianni liked the comparison of Kenneth Gainwell to Nyheim Hines, who was in Indy with him.
Says they’re not the same player and won’t be used exactly the same, but there’s a good hint.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) May 1, 2021
But the Eagles rookie stopped short of comparing himself to Sproles, or any other NFL running back for that matter.
“Not at all. I’m a rare breed,” Gainwell said. “I’m a different one.”
ESPN Guru Names ‘Biggest Steal’ of NFL Draft
For once, it appears as if Eagles general manager Howie Roseman may have outsmarted everyone in the room. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. couldn’t stop gushing about Gainwell going to the Eagles in the fifth round. He called it one of the “biggest steals” in the draft, adding that “all Kenny Gainwell did was score touchdowns” in college.
“I love going running back in Round 5. Kenny Gainwell, running back out of Memphis who in 2019 all Kenny Gainwell did was score touchdowns,” Kiper said. “Catching the football out of the backfield, game-breaking runner, outstanding football player. They get him in Round 5, he should have been taken in Round 3. That’s a heck of a pick for the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Eagles select RB Kenneth Gainwell with the 150th pick in the NFL Draft
Gainwell was the only RB with 85.0+ receiving AND rushing grades in college football in 2019 pic.twitter.com/SidsrTPpkM
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 1, 2021