The Philadelphia Eagles should definitely have a growing Yazoo City fanbase after selecting former Yazoo County High School standout Kenny Gainwell in the 5th round of the 2021 NFL draft over the weekend.
Gainwell now joins Yazoo City’s Fletcher Cox as a member of the Eagles ensuring that Yazooans will be glued to their television sets on Sunday afternoons to watch the pair play together.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Cox on teaming up with Gainwell. “I talked to him early in the draft process and I told him just be true to yourself. At this point in your life, you’re about to become a young man and are going to have to be responsible. Your decision-making is going to be very important during this process. I told him I was excited for him.”
Like many, Gainwell – who had a spectacular freshman season in 2019 as a member of the Memphis Tigers – opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and justifiably so. Gainwell had four family members succumb to the fatal virus and decided it was best to sit out the season and personally prepare for the draft.
Had he played in 2020 it is not a given he would have been selected higher, but it was obvious that his one season, body-of-work was enough for the Eagles to grab him with the 150th pick.
As a freshman, Gainwell led the FBS with 2,069 all-purpose yards was named the 2019 American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and was a First-Team All-AAC selection. The 5’8, 200-pounder who runs 4.47 in the 40-yard dash also had 610 receiving yards from his running back position in 2019 (second most by a running back in the past four years behind Penn State’s Saquon Barkley).
ESPN NFL football analysts Mel Kiper, Jr. and Louis Riddick raved about Gainwell during the draft coverage.
“He was a touchdown waiting to happen,” said Kiper, Jr. “He was a game breaker when both catching the ball and running with the football. It’s crazy to forget how good these guys were, the guys who opted out.”
Said Riddick, “What’s interesting about him, the first thing that jumps off the screen at you is his lower body balance. The ability to run through arm tackles. It was amazing to me. His receiving ability our of the backfield. They’ll put him in the slot. He can run the entire route tree from there. This is a great pick for the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Joining Cox in Philadelphia gives Gainwell a luxury that not many young men in his position have. In Cox, he has a guy that knows exactly where he comes from because he came from the exact same environment. Gainwell will be able to lean on and trust in Cox as he navigates his way through this major life adjustment.
“Now that he was drafted by the Eagles I can kind of show him the ropes,” says Cox. “It’s always good to have someone to help show you the way. I’m entering my 10th season [in the NFL] so I’ll be able to show him around and help him get through that rookie wall. I can be a big brother to him and show him the do’s and don’ts on being a pro.”