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Kolb patient, yet craves starting role

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Laura Okmin

Laura Okmin has more than 15 years of experience working for FOX Sports, FSN, CNN Sports and Westwood One Radio. Laura created 'PROfiles', a show profiling NFL personalities off the field, where viewers can see athletes in a completely different light, not limited to 20 second sound bites.

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ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the interview that Laura Okmin had with Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb.

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Philadelphia is known for having the toughest sports fans in America.

That is why Kevin Kolb has had the most amazing season. Not the season he thought he would have, mind you. That season would’ve been spent throwing touchdowns and leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs.

Instead, Kolb has spent his season, on the bench, reading countless letters and being stopped endless times in restaurants, malls and movie theaters by Philadelphians — remember, the toughest sports fans in America — wanting to tell him how much they admire him for the season he’s had, telling him he has earned more respect by how he has handled not playing than anything he will ever do on the field.

There’s nothing sexier in sports than a quarterback controversy, and the Eagles' situation should’ve been the perfect soap opera.

The only problem?

That’s not Kevin Kolb’s style.

"I’ve had more fun this year than I ever have. No one believes me when I say that, but there’s not one person who doesn’t get along in our locker room. Not one. There was no way I was going to be that one,” Kolb said describing this season.

One of the reasons Philly’s situation was so healthy was because of the communication between the three integral people in this triangle: Kolb, Michael Vick and head coach Andy Reid. The two quarterbacks already had a strong relationship, golfing once a week together last year — they really like each other.

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As for the man who demoted him, Kolb says his relationship with Reid is stronger now than it has ever been.

Just to refresh your memory, this is the quarterback who was so highly regarded that the Eagles shipped Donovan McNabb — the face of the franchise — out of town, gave Kolb a contract extension and told him along with the rest of the football world that "you are the man."

The only problem? Vick proved to be the man and what could Reid do?

Even Kolb understood.

“I see the same quarterback you do. It’s one thing if you know you can come in and do a better job than the guy who replaced you, but I’m amazed at what he’s doing along with everyone else. He’s having an MVP-type season, how can I be bitter?”

While the media criticized Reid for not speaking the truth about the situation, Kolb says his coach was completely honest with him every step of the way.

That’s still the case. Reid pulls his backup quarterback aside before or after each practice and asks him what his thoughts are for the game, what plays he thinks would work best and what plays Vick likes running that week.

“I don’t know if he’s just trying to make me feel good, but I do know he’s given me a feeling of ownership with the offense even though I’m not the starter and I appreciate that,” Kolb said.

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I can fill an entire column with stories about how wonderful of a person Kevin Kolb is and how he’s handled his job demotion in a way most of us would never be able, but I don’t want that to be confused with Kolb being satisfied with his role. He’s not. He roots for Vick’s success, but wants desperately to be a starting quarterback. “It’s in my blood,” he says.

As a backup for four seasons, he is an all pro when it comes to the mental reps he’s taken, but he knows the only way he’ll be a better football player is by taking them physically and consistently.

In two of the five games Kolb has started, he has earned offensive player of the week, but he then goes back to the bench unable to build on what he learned. Last week against Dallas, his critics wondered if he had the stuff to be a starter, forgetting he hadn’t taken a snap with the first team in 10 weeks, not to mention there was just one starter on the entire offense.

He wants to prove to the league — and himself — how good he can be, but it’s hard to do that in bits and pieces.

Next season will be a major dilemma for the Eagles. Trade Kolb, or with the durability question regarding Vick, do you bring him back for a fifth season?

It’s great fodder for talk radio, but Kolb refuses to entertain the “what if” game.

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The script he would write for next season? “I don’t want to predetermine anything,’’ he said. "I don’t want to be let down or get overly excited. All I know is the door is open and my mind is open. I love this team. I love Andy. I’m also ready to be a starter. I’m bred for this. I’m ready to lead a team on and off the field.”

As he waits for that opportunity to change his life, he’s already changed the lives of others. Just ask the 15-year-old boy who approached Kolb at dinner the other night.

The boy told him he didn’t want his autograph, he just wanted to tell him that he’s his favorite quarterback. The boy’s mother quietly followed up, telling Kolb that her son has pictures of him all over his room because he is the kind of quarterback and person he wants to be. Those moments aren’t lost on him.

“When you feel like you’ve earned the respect of Philly fans, you feel like you really did something.”

Tagged: Eagles, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb

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