After the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 15-10 in the second round of the NFL playoffs, the Eagles' Lane Johnson amused viewers by putting a German Shepherd mask over his head. It signified that most NFL analysts had bet against his team: They were the underdogs.
The day after the win, the masks sold out on Amazon, which prompted Johnson to come up with a plan to benefit the city he represents. He collaborated with the Philly-based retailer Oldies.com to sell the masks and have 65 percent of the proceeds go to a fund supporting the School District of Philadelphia. He also promised the fund 100 percent of the proceeds from sales of a shirt with the phrase "Home Dogs Gonna Eat" on his own site.
And, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he has already raised more than $100,000.
The masks and shirts are currently sold out on both Oldies and Johnson's site, as they are on Amazon, but Oldies promises that more masks will be available this Wednesday.
During Sunday's NFC Championship game, in which the Eagles beat the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, booking a trip to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl once again, the stands were full of them.
Defensive end Chris Long, who also wore one of the masks after the game against the Falcons, has already established himself as a fervent supporter of educational causes.
Last October he pledged to give his entire salary from this season to scholarship funds and an educational equity campaign called Pledge 10 for Tomorrow. Former U.S. President Barack Obama called him an example of "what's best about America."
"Underdogs. No shot. Dead in the water," writes Eagles tight end Zach Ertz about the inception of the idea to order the masks in an essay for The Players' Tribune. "We heard it about 10,000 times over the course of that week: The first No. 1 seed since 1970 to be 'dogs in the divisional round."
Pundits counted the Eagles out in large part because they credited the team's success to their starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL in Week 13.
Before his injury, Wentz was a favored MVP candidate. With 33 touchdowns in his second NFL season, he had one more in 13 games than the New England Patriots' Tom Brady had in 16.
But through the playoffs thus far, the back-up quarterback Nick Foles has proved to be suitable replacement. NFL.com called his performance against the Vikings a "fever dream." When a cameraman spotted him taking a phone call on the sideline during the game, fans joked on Twitter that he was negotiating for a new contract or helping out VIPs in Washington.
As Ertz notes, though, the Eagles' success is not all about their quarterback. The whole team pulled together to get the win.
"It's not just Carson Wentz who went down," he writes. "It was Jason Peters and Darren Sproles and Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos. We could probably field an All-Pro team of injured guys, but instead of crumbling under all the adversity, it only made us more united."
Now, as NFC Champions, they're doing everything they can to benefit their city — perhaps, some speculate, because if they defeat the Patriots in two weeks to win their first Super Bowl title ever, over-excited fans could destroy it in celebration. Local police have already greased street poles so no one can climb them.
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