In February, former Wisconsin safety Chris Maragos won his first NFL championship as a member of the Seattle Seahawks after a dominant win over the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII. The now-former member of the Legion of Boom (the nickname for the Seahawks' secondary) contributed heavily on special teams for Pete Carroll's team, but a big decision was forthcoming a month later.
Maragos was a free agent after the season. The Racine, Wis., native was humbled as he received interest from NFL teams during the free agency period, and he ultimately chose to professionally relocate to the East Coast when he signed a three-year, $4 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles in mid-March.
What made him leave Seattle and head out east? For Maragos, the decision to sign with the Eagles was a practical and well-thought out process.
"Philadelphia -- just the ownership, the front office, the head coach, what Chip Kelly was doing, the type of person he is, the roster that was already established, already set here -- all those things really stuck out for me and made it so attractive to come to Philadelphia to be a part of this team," Maragos said.
It's a decision that's paid off for Maragos and for the Eagles, who sit 5-2 and only a half-game out of first place in the NFC East heading into Sunday's game against the Houston Texans and former Badgers teammate J.J. Watt.
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Philadelphia's special teams have been a huge contributor to the team's success so far this season, with the Eagles at one point blocking a punt in three consecutive games, including Maragos partially blocking one against the New York Giants in a 27-0 victory, Two of the other blocks resulted in instant touchdowns for the team, including a score for Maragos himself on Oct, 5 against the St. Louis Rams.
The Eagles' special teams as a whole have been outstanding this season. They've scored four touchdowns alone so far, and Darren Sproles leads the league in yards per punt return at 15.6. Maragos credits special teams coordinator Dave Fipp and a special group of players who he believes are unselfish in accomplishing these team-orientated goals.
"I think the best thing we have going here is we have guys who really care who are really committed to playing special teams and really understand how to really play it," Maragos said.
To the 5'10, 200-pound safety, blocking a punt is almost an art that involves several factors -- ones the Eagles have perfected early on this season.
"First, it starts with your get off of the ball, just off the snap," Maragos said.
"Just being in the position to get a great jump because these guys' operation times are super fast getting the ball off -- so you gotta get a great jump, gotta have a great scheme, you have to have a great individual effort or rush as a person, and you just gotta make good decisions around the block point.
"Fortunately, we've been able to do that this year, and it's really helped our ball team, and hopefully we can have some more of that this year."
Maragos, aside from his normal special teams duties, might also receive a look in the defensive backfield as Eagles safety Nate Allen is questionable with a hamstring injury.
Aside from the professional side of the game, Maragos has embraced his new city and its passionate fans. Many Badgers fans know his story -- a former walk-on who converted to safety from wide receiver after transferring from Western Michigan to Wisconsin. He worked his way up to being the starting safety for the 2009 season, and along with earning the respect of his peers and being named team captain during his senior season, both he and Watt -- whose team he'll face Sunday -- were awarded scholarships at the same time during a Wisconsin team meeting.
Eagles fans appear to have taken a liking to Maragos. He believes his attitude and demeanor on the field reflects a similar work ethic seen in the fans who pack Lincoln Financial Field each season.
"I think my style of play and type of person I am -- just that blue collar type feel -- just resembles what a lot of the fans are," said Maragos.
"I just really try to be an extension of the ownership and the franchise here and also the fans that we play for. It's been awesome and the fans have been great. They've been hugely supportive of our team and a big part of why we've had so much success this year, and they're going to be an even bigger part as we head down the last part of the year here."
These little Swoops rounded the whole block and now we're counting back at the Eagles Nest! pic.twitter.com/VuixiPd6y5
— Chris Maragos (@ChrisMaragos) October 31, 2014
Through seven games and half a season, Maragos has enjoyed his time in the City of Brotherly Love, and his contributions to the Eagles have helped the team be among the top NFC teams.
"It's just been a great transition so far for my family and I. The team is awesome. The city's great. Just really couldn't have been a better fit -- just really happy with the decision we made in free agency,"