A few days after the Eagles clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed in the regular-season finale, rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis was interrupted from his sleep during the early morning hours. He received a bevy of notifications, including text messages from former Georgia teammate and fellow Eagles rookie Nakobe Dean.

“Did you see the news?” Dean urgently typed, “Did you hear about Chandler and Devin?”

Unaware of what Dean was referencing, Davis quickly processed through several other messages and was brought to tears after he discovered former college teammate Devin Willock and staff member Chandler LeCroy had died in a car crash that occurred near Georgia’s campus.

According to the crash report from the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, LeCroy was driving an SUV carrying three other members of the Georgia football program. After she “failed to negotiate a left curve, the vehicle struck a curb with its front passenger tire and left the roadway, going on to strike a power pole and another utility pole.” Per the report, Willock was seated behind LeCroy on the driver’s side, and was ejected from the vehicle. Willock, 20, died at the scene of the accident and LeCroy, 24, was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The other two passengers, Victoria Bowles, 26, and Warren McClendon, 21, survived while sustaining non-life threatening injuries.

The deaths of LeCroy and Willock hit especially hard for Dean, who had recently seen them at the College Football Playoff national championship game — a couple of days earlier at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. After Georgia defeated TCU to claim a second consecutive CFP championship, Dean was part of the on-field celebration with his alma mater.

While the confetti fell and music blared, LeCroy sought out Dean, and the duo took a selfie photograph together. Dean never imagined that would be the final time he’d enjoy a moment with Willock, an offensive lineman, and LeCroy, a Georgia recruiting staffer, whom Dean described as a “beautiful and warm soul.”

“I’ll always remember her being happy,” Dean said. “Always taking pictures and always being generous. I’m going to cherish my moments with them forever. With Devin, I’d see him everyday. You see each other everyday, you get closer. All the jokes that we shared, the time that we had in the locker room — that was our time to decompress and relax. To see him let his guard down and go from a wide-eyed freshman to a mature man ... It’s crazy how moments like that go by.”

Said Davis: “This grieving process is so hard. Not only did I lose friends, but I lost a brother and a sister. It’s hard. At the end of the day, I tell myself to remember the great times that we had. Remember the memories of them smiling. It really [messes] with you, it affects you. You want to remember the good things.”

In the days and moments that followed, Dean and Davis leaned heavily on each other for support, much like they have done for a majority of their rookie seasons. The Eagles selected Davis with their top pick in last year’s draft, while Dean — widely considered a first-round prospect — slipped to the Eagles in the third round.

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“It’d be a lot harder without KoDean,” Davis said. “I’m grateful he’s here. I’m grateful we get to go through this journey together ... any situation that he needs me or I need him, we just call each other.”

Just recently, Davis FaceTimed Dean and asked if his longtime friend could “pull up,” as he needed support. Within the next several minutes, Dean departed his apartment near the team’s NovaCare Complex and he was bound for Davis’ home in nearby Delaware.

“I needed somebody to talk to, I needed somebody to get me through this,” Davis said. “I’m so grateful for him. I say it all the time. I love him like my mother made him. Blood really couldn’t make us closer.”

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Davis and Dean aspire to honor Willock and LeCroy’s legacies. While they warmed up before their first playoff game against the New York Giants in the divisional round, Davis and Dean sported customized T-shirts in remembrance of their late friends.

“I’m going to play for their honor,” Davis said. “I pray for them pregame, for them to walk step for step with me, and watch over me during this game. You don’t want to let those memories die.”

Dean and Davis have both experienced unique rookie campaigns.

Even with the stature attached to being a first-round pick, Davis hasn’t had much playing time mainly due to the depth and talent at interior defensive line. Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave are the featured pieces, while Davis and second-year defensive lineman Milton Williams have provided support in waves. Davis also sustained a midseason high ankle sprain that slowed his momentum, and forced the Eagles to call in reinforcements by the way of veteran signings Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh.

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It’s been much the same for Dean, who’s waiting patiently behind starting linebackers T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White.

“This rookie year is one of the hardest years we’re going to have, just getting used to the NFL life and schedule, everything that comes with being a professional,” Davis said. “Having KoDean here is a complete blessing.”

The Davis-Dean duo is cherishing the rarity of them winning a CFP national title and advancing to the Super Bowl together in the next immediate season. The Eagles will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII next Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Although their combined rookie contributions have been limited, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said Dean and Davis’ combined experience with winning at the highest level is invaluable.

“That’s why you want guys from those types of programs because they played in the biggest spotlight in college for the biggest prize,” Sirianni said. “Any time you’re playing in big games, that’s super helpful because they have been in that scenario before.”

“Georgia kind of set that precedent that we’re always looking for the next one,” Davis said. “We acknowledge what we accomplished and everything. But even after the NFC championship, we were telling each other, ‘We have to get the next one.’ We’re always chasing the next high, the next win.”

Dean concluded: “It’s our first Super Bowl in the NFL — I‘ll 100% be thinking about Chandler and Devin. They’ll definitely be in my mind and hearts forever.”

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