Dwayne Joseph hounded Jim Miller for weeks in 2001. As the Bears’ director of player development, Joseph wanted Miller, then a Bears quarterback, to fulfill a promise he made to his parents.
“He had looked at my record and he said, ‘Jim, do you know you’re one credit shy, one class shy of getting your degree at Michigan State? We need to make this happen. You need to go back and get your degree,’ ” Miller said.
“He was relentless really kind of pushing me. I relented just due to his persistence because I knew he was right. It was the right thing to do.”
Joseph, whom players and colleagues call “DJ,” found a statistics course for Miller to take at Lake Forest College that would count as credit at Michigan State. Miller met with a professor for a two or three hours three times a week.
“I ended up writing a thesis paper on basically the linear equation of why quarterback salaries were increasing,” Miller said with a laugh.
And he passed.
“No sooner than a few months later, Michigan State mailed me my degree [in materials and logistics management],” Miller said. “I was pretty proud of that. I went up right away and thanked Dwayne for pressing me to get it done.
“It was really his motivation that motivated me to get something done. He was always like that with players.”
Nearly two decades later, Joseph’s ability to connect with players played a role in the Eagles’ rise this season, which ended with their 41-33 victory Sunday against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
As the Eagles’ director of pro scouting, Joseph had an overlooked, but important role in Philadelphia’s signing of receiver Alshon Jeffery last offseason.
Joseph, a defensive back for the Bears in 1990s, joined former general manager Phil Emery’s staff as the team’s assistant director of pro scouting after Jeffery was drafted in the second round in 2012.
A year later, Emery promoted Joseph to associate director of pro personnel. It was the result of a relationship that started in 1998 when Emery was an area scout for the Bears and Joseph worked in the player development department.
During the final day of media availability before the Super Bowl on Thursday, Jeffery said he trusted Joseph during his first time in free agency. It started with Joseph’s connection with Jeffery’s former agent, Eugene Parker, who passed away in March 2016.
“DJ played a huge part [in signing with the Eagles], just knowing him from being in Chicago,” Jeffery said. “Just knowing his relationship [with Joseph], Eugene played a huge factor, and my agent now, Tory Dandy, knew him as well. It was just knowing how much they valued his opinion and things like that.
“And [myself], just knowing DJ, he has always been a genuine person. He just always kept it real with me.”
It’s an example of how certain members of team’s front office can influence personnel decisions and help form teams. The Eagles didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment from Joseph, though most teams typically only allow their general managers to speak to the media.
In league circles, Joseph is known for establishing a working rapport with agents and then their players. Jeffery is one example of that. A former colleague said that Joseph is a family-oriented person who is respected for his meticulous approach to scouting, but also his “firm and very direct” approach to discussions.
“I don’t know why more people haven’t talked about him being a future GM because he will be one,” a rival scout said.
Jeffery, receiver Torrey Smith, defensive end Chris Long and quarterback Nick Foles — who will start against the Patriots in the Super Bowl — are among the free-agent signings the Eagles made before this season. The Eagles also acquired starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from the Ravens.
The Bears certainly knew all about Joseph. After cornerback Charles Tillman retired, he specifically highlighted Joseph’s influence on his career, telling the Bears’ website that Joseph taught him how to be a professional.
“That I’m the president of ‘Charles Tillman Incorporated,’ ” Tillman said. “And that helped me last 13 years in a tough profession.”
General manager Ryan Pace wanted to retain Joseph after he took over the Bears in 2015. But Joseph accepted his current position with the Eagles.
A year later, the Eagles hired away Joe Douglas from the Bears. He was named the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel after being Pace’s director of college scouting for two years.
Former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt isn’t surprised that Joseph is in the Super Bowl with the Eagles. Wannstedt’s Bears signed Joseph as an undrafted free agent out of Syracuse in 1994. During the 1995 season, Joseph appeared in 16 games, making two interceptions and forcing a fumble.
“He was an overachiever and as a tough as a guy that we had on the team,” said Wannstedt, who is now an analyst for Fox Sports.
In 2004, Wannstedt hired Joseph as a pro scout. Joseph spent the next eight years with the Dolphins, including two with current Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“Some of the best coaches in any sport are the ones who are overachievers, who were not the best players [but] they had to find a way to do it,” Wannstedt said. “I think the same thing with scouts. And I think that’s Dwayne. He understands what it takes to play and what a player has to have on the field, off the field to be successful. I think he can he see himself in all these guys.”
Just ask Miller.
In 2001, the same year Miller received his college degree, he went 11-2 as the Bears’ starting quarterback. The Bears lost to the Eagles in the divisional round of playoffs that year.
“[Joseph] understands players’ mindsets very well because it’s in his background,” Miller said. “When he knew something was right to do, he pushed the players to really go after their goal and reach their goals.”
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