Panthers celebrate Grugier-Hill’s super bowl title

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Before Sunday, former Panther linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill’s “claim to fame,” you could say, was when he handled kick off duties for the Philadelphia Eagles in a regular season game.

Now he can say that he is a Super Bowl champion.

Grugier-Hill was in his second year with the Eagles after being cut by the Patriots prior to last season. He spent most of his time on special teams this season, not kicking, rather racking up 13 tackles to have him 10th in the NFL in that category.

Eastern coach Kim Dameron was the head coach for Grugier-Hill’s final two seasons with the Panthers, and said during Eastern’s recruiting process, they are trying to find “the next Kamu.”

“It just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter where you come from,” Dameron said. “What matters is what you do when you get your opportunity. …He just did everything the right way and when he got an opportunity to be in the NFL, he performed and that’s what they look at.”

“It’s great to see a young man of his caliber,  not only as a person, but also as a player, get that opportunity and take advantage of it,”  Dameron said.

With Grugier-Hill’s and the Eagles’ win on Sunday, it made Eastern 8-0 in the big game when there is Panther blood on the roster.

Grugier-Hill’s championship season follows Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots’ 2015 and 2017 wins, Sean Payton’s as head coach of the Saints in 2010, Mike Shanahan’s back-to-back wins with the Broncos in 1998 and 1999 and Ted Peterson’s, an offensive lineman for the Steelers in 1979 and 1980.

“It’s great to see Kamu carry on the legacy of Eastern Illinois players who have gone on and done well and when they get in the big game, they’ve won it,” Dameron said. “It’s a little bit of an amazing stat, but it is what it is.”

Dameron and Grugier-Hill have not talked much over his years in the NFL, but the two have maintained contact through social media.

He added that he has seen pictures of current and other former Panthers who have made trips to see games and that Grugier-Hill keeps in contact with his alma mater.

Graduating senior linebacker Nick Horne joined the Panthers in 2014, but sat out due to transfer rules. He began his career began in 2015 and he played in 12 games.

Both linebackers for the Panthers had dreams of the NFL and Grugier-Hill not only is seeing it come to fruition, but reached the NFL player’s greatest dream.

“It was really good to see (him win the Super Bowl),” Horne said. “I’m truly happy for him. We used to talk about the NFL when we played together. He taught me a lot when I played with him especially because we played the exact same position and the position was new to me.”

The Eagles have their championship parade Thursday to celebrate the team’s first Super Bowl win in team history.

Grugier-Hill made a name for himself beyond being the linebacker that booted the kickoffs to the goal line as an emergency replacement against the Cowboys, but it is still something good for Dameron to go back and laugh on.

Grugier-Hill used to mess around after practices at Eastern and punt, but Dameron never knew he could kick that way, he said with a laugh.

“Obviously he had that in his background,” Dameron said. “We never had to have him do that, plus I darn sure didn’t want him to get hurt trying to kick a ball.”

Dameron also had high praise for Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and how he handled the Eagles this season, even calling him “coach of the year.”

“It’s amazing what a bunch of guys can do when they believe in each other,” Dameron said.

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]