September 7, 2016 was a curious day. Four days before their season opener, the New England Patriots opted to make a trade and send a conditional draft pick plus offensive lineman Josh Kline to the Philadelphia Eagles in return for cornerback Eric Rowe. But while Kline would ultimately be yanked from the trade and end up getting released by the Patriots before signing with the Tennessee Titans, Rowe still joined the team.
Despite struggling with injuries in his first year in New England, the ex-Eagle would quickly become an important player within the Patriots' defensive back rotation. As the number three option at cornerback alongside Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, Rowe appeared in 12 games for the team during a 2016 season that would turn out to be the most successful one of his still young career.
Not only did the former second round draft pick register a total of 37 tackles and two interceptions – both career-highs at that point –, he also won his first Super Bowl. And it was not just rotational snaps Rowe saw in the title game: The Patriots' coaching staff trusted him to regularly guard one of the NFL's best wide receivers in Julio Jones. Despite Jones making one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history over Rowe, the defender stood his ground.
Fast forward one year, and after another injury-plagued campaign for the 25-year old, he returns to pro football's biggest stage. New England's opponent in Rowe's second Super Bowl in as many seasons with the Patriots is a familiar one: the Eagles, who decided to trade him to Foxboro just 17 months earlier – a move that appears to have worked out rather well for Rowe.
When asked about the move on media night, Rowe was of course asked about his former team and his thoughts about the Eagles trading him away just one year after selecting him on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft. “Obviously, I was pretty upset,” Rowe told Philly Voice's Matt Mullin. “But now it’s understanding its a business and that’s just how this goes.”
“There’s nothing personal once I got over that,” the cornerback continued. 247 Sports' Jeff Kerr also spoke with Rowe and asked him whether or not he harbored any negative feelings towards Philadelphia in light of the team apparently feeling it would be better off without him. Again, Rowe's response was no negative one: “I don’t have any hard feelings, personal feelings like a grudge toward the Eagles.”
Going against his former team, Rowe is projected to play a prominent role on the Patriots' defense – a fitting reunion with the team that selected him 47th overall not even three years ago. “I was happy they made it,” the Utah product said about Philadelphia reaching the Super Bowl. “Once they got in I was like ‘Okay cool. We get to go against each other.’”
For the Eagles, this going-against-each-other will be a chance to earn the first Super Bowl win in franchise history. For Eric Rowe, on the other hand, the game might result in a second championship ring in row – and even though he would not publicly admit it, a bit of redemption.