FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Malcolm Jenkins is helping the New England Patriots get ready for their Super Bowl LII showdown with the Eagles in Minneapolis and he probably doesn't even know it.
Jenkins, the Eagles' Pro Bowl safety, had a profound impact on Eric Rowe during the third-year cornerback's brief time as a rookie in Philadelphia, and that influence remains as Rowe gets ready for his second Super Bowl with the Patriots in as many seasons.
"Malcolm knows what it takes to be a professional in the NFL, so during my rookie year he was the guy I wanted to follow," Rowe said Monday, the day after the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl following a 24-20 win over Jacksonville at Gillette Stadium. "He is a phenomenal leader. Not just his words, but his actions. I would always see him in the film room by himself watching hours and hours of film. And then he'd be in the weight room doing extra stuff and on the field doing extra stuff."
Rowe, a second-round pick by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly in 2015, started the final five games of his rookie season, but when he returned for his second season, a new regime was in place and rookie Jalen Mills moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Before the 2016 season started, Rowe was traded to the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. He departed with a text message from Jenkins.
"Shoot, I still remember that text message and try to follow up on it," Rowe said. "He told me that everything happens for a reason and to just keep working because you're going to be great one day. Even today, I'm thinking, 'OK, we're playing the Eagles and I know Malcolm is getting ready, especially for the Super Bowl, so I need to get on my stuff, too.' "
The trade, of course, has worked out just fine for Rowe, a former safety at Utah who has become the Patriots' nickel cornerback. That does not necessarily mean he will be covering slot receiver Nelson Agholor because Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is known for juggling his cornerbacks to get what New England perceives is the best possible matchup.
Regardless, Rowe is going to play a huge role for the Patriots and he could not be happier about how the first NFL trade of his career worked out, even if it was jarring at the time.
"No hard feelings," Rowe said. "That's just how the business goes. I knew there was some talk, but when it happened I was still shocked. And then I was shocked about how everything moved so fast. I was on a flight the same day and then I was immediately on the practice field trying to catch up. After the initial shock, I was like, 'OK, I need to take advantage of this opportunity, because you don't get a lot of opportunities to play for the Patriots.' "
Rowe, 25, got a Super Bowl ring when the Patriots rallied to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI last year in Houston. Now he has a chance to get another when New England goes against the Eagles on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. He said he exchanged a text message Sunday night with linebacker Jordan Hicks after the Eagles won and he still keeps in contact with cornerback Jaylen Watkins as well.
He said he did not see any of the Eagles' NFC championship win over Minnesota, but he was happy for his former teammates and impressed with the show put on by Nick Foles.