“Whatever happened to Fay Wray,” sang Frank N Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He was referring to the lead actress in King Kong, who subsequently disappeared from view, certainly in the science fiction genre that he espoused. In the same way, I am asking what happened to the MVP of World Bowl XII, an Eagles running back who played a stormer of a game, just as he had done throughout the 2004 NFL Europe season. But more of him later.
I wrote recently about the World League of American Football, which later became NFL Europe. One of the interesting features of this league was that NFL teams would allocate personnel to its teams each season. These players would train in Florida in March, then play for ten weeks in Europe, with teams in Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK. These allocated players received intense coaching and, more importantly, competitive play. Coaches then reported back to the NFL on the quality of their charges. Kurt Warner came through this system, as did several other prominent stars.
So, what about the Eagles? Did the NFL Europe system produce any big names for Philadelphia? Well, let’s look at the failures first.
Does anyone remember QB Ron Powlus who was allocated to Amsterdam in 2000? With a passer rating of 81.1, that was as far as his pro career went. He’s now a college QB coach. Then there’s wide receivers Brian McDonald and Sean Scott, who played in Germany in 2002/3. Again, they were discarded by the Eagles, though Scott went on to five successful seasons in Arena Football with the Soul.
Running backs Mark Kacmarynski (1999) and Anthony Gray (2001) fared no better, despite having had great college success. Indeed, Gray led the Scottish Claymores rushing with 111 attempts for 445 yards and 2 TDs in his ten games but that wasn’t good enough to secure a spot with the birds. Much the same has befallen World Bowl starters Carlos Nuno and Josh Moore along with a whole host of others who just never impressed Eagles coaches enough to make it to the big team.
It all started in 1998, when, three years after other teams had offered some of their tryout players, coach Rhodes sent prospective cornerback Anthony Rice to the London Monarchs. It wasn’t a great year for him with only two interceptions while his thirteen kickoff returns averaged just 19.1 yards. Three years with the LA Avengers followed.
Fortunately, when Andy Reid took over, he didn’t use that as a marker and he sent over a few reasonable players to see what they could do. Some subsequently suited up in midnight green: Henry Slay (DT) for three games in 1998, Pernell Davis (DT) two games in 1999, Kori Dickerson (TE) twice in 2003 and Nick Murphy (P) once in 2005, where he punted seven times for a 39.3 yard average. Others did better after being traded to rival teams. Oliver Ross (T), for example, played four seasons for the Steelers and two for the Cardinals from 2001 to 2006, with 53 games as a starter. Then there’s Corey McIntyre (FB) who moved to Cleveland as a kickoff returner in 2005 and has subsequently played for the Saints, Falcons and Bills.
So, you might think, it’s largely a picture of failure. Well, certainly for the Eagles that is pretty accurate. But I have left the best till last. On Sunday 30 May, 1999, I sat in my 50 yard line seat at Hampden Park in Glasgow as my team, the Scottish Claymores, lost 10-28 to the Berlin Thunder. The national kicker, Axel Kruse, scored four PATs, because the rules required that anything shorter than 30 yards should be taken by the national player, rather than the NFL allocate. So it was that I never noticed one David Akers, who, in his NFL Europe season kicked ten field goals, including two of 51 yards. The rest, to perpetuate the cliché, is history.
Oh, and to return to my original question: whatever happened to Eric McCoo, formerly of the Penn State Nittany Lions? I first saw him when his team demolished the Claymores 27-9 in week nine of the regular season. By that stage, Berlin Thunder were World Bowl bound, as were their opponents, Frankfurt Galaxy and McCoo continued to smash through our D-line, just as he had done at home in week one.
I travelled to Gelsenkirchen for the season finale and watched McCoo pick up MVP, having carried the ball 28 times for 167 yards. His magnificent 69 yard fourth quarter touchdown settled the game for Berlin, despite Frankfurt’s late attempt at a come-back. You might think, as I did, that a sparkling career would follow. Not at all. Having joined the 2004 practice squad, he suited up once for the Eagles against the Bengals in an end of season filler, rushing for 54 yards on nine carries. Released by the team in 2005, McCoo dropped out of football. He now lives in Wheeling, Illinois.