Allen Iverson is one of the most beloved figures in Philadelphia sports history. He’s right up there with Brian Dawkins and Chase Utley, in terms of his heart and the way his play resonated with the fan base.
So when Nick Sirianni casually threw Iverson’s name into a conversation about DeVonta Smith, well, a few people’s eyes popped out of their sockets. The Philadelphia Eagles head coach wasn’t necessarily comparing the two athletes, but he was trying to illustrate a point about route running. Sirianni likes to pull out a clip of Iverson’s famed cross-over move to teach wide receivers how to release off the line of scrimmage.
“I always consider the jab at the first point of the line of scrimmage,” Sirianni told reporters. “And I think this will resonate with Philadelphia fans, that any time I teach a wide receiver how to release off the line of scrimmage, I have an Allen Iverson clip ready to go.”
Smith’s “jab” is one of the better ones in the NFL. He’s quick off the line, decisive in his route, and his football intelligence is off the charts. Once the rookie puts that foot in the ground, watch out.
“And because DeVonta’s fast and because he’s quick and he has a quick, fast first release, first step, they have to react to when he jabs,” Sirianni said. “And then the other thing on top of that, he’s making it a meaningful jab. He puts his foot in the ground, he puts his body that way, and puts his head that way to really get them going and then he crosses them over to, say, on – you know, how Allen Iverson used to do it.”
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Sirianni Grew Up Following ‘The Answer’
Iverson was a generational talent and his legacy was felt well outside the Philly region. Sirianni grew up in Jamestown, NY – about three hours away from Syracuse – where he followed the cross-over machine’s early career in the Big East at Georgetown. Sirianni was a self-admitted “basketball nerd” and recalled watching him school Lawrence Moten (Syracuse) and Kerry Kittles (Villanova).
“Why was Allen Iverson good at the crossover? One thing, and you hear him say this all the time, is that he’s fast, he was quick. And so, people had to react to his first step,” Sirianni said. “And so, when he took that hard jab one way, they had to react to it because he was quick and then he was able to go back the other way.”
The Iverson clip he shows his players is from an old documentary. In the film, the Sixers legend goes into great detail about how he developed the cross-over move and how he broke opponents down, including Michael Jordan.
Smith Acknowledged Iverson Comparisons
This isn’t the first time Smith has been compared to Iverson. During the NFL draft process, many scouts were making the same parallel, mainly due to the rookie receiver’s undersized frame. He showed up to his pro day measuring just 6-foot and weighing 170 pounds. Iverson was 6-foot and 165 pounds, soaking wet.
“I’ve heard a couple of people tell me that I remind them of him,” Smith said. “Just because of like the dog that I have, just because you’re undersized, and no matter what you’re not going to back down from nobody.”