It’s officially July, which means we’re a few short weeks from the start of training camp. Over the coming days, we’ll highlight a few notable Chargers with their 2014 Media Guide profile. Up first is Pro Bowl safety and defensive captain Eric Weddle.
A leader of the Chargers’ defense and one of the squad’s top special teams performers, Weddle earned his second Pro Bowl appointment and his second Chargers Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013. A reigning four-time Associated Press All-Pro selection and No. 92 on the NFL’s list of its Top 100 players, Weddle had an outstanding all-around season in 2013, topping 100 tackles to lead the team for the second year in a row, while eclipsing the century mark for the third time in seven seasons. Weddle tied for the team lead with two interceptions during the regular season and he was second on the squad with 10 passes defensed. He also made his mark on special teams, ranking second on the squad with 11 tackles, while also successfully executing two fake punts, including one in overtime of the Bolts’ regular-season finale against Kansas City that helped catapult the team into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
With Weddle serving as the quarterback of the defense, the unit played some of its best football down the stretch in 2013, collecting 16 takeaways in the final eight games of the year, playoffs included, more than double the team’s total of the first 11 games. The unit also allowed just five passing touchdowns in the final five games as the Bolts went 4-1 in December en route to the postseason. It was a significant improvement over the 18 touchdown passes that the defense allowed in the first 11 games.
Recently, Weddle has received as much recognition for his play on the field as he has for his appearance off it. Last season, he started growing a beard that grew to epic proportions. Years earlier, his father, Steve, had grown a beard and it served as an inspiration to Weddle, who swore not to shave the beard until the Chargers went to the Super Bowl or were eliminated from the playoffs. And he still has the beard. So popular is the beard that it even has its own twitter handle (@weddlesbeard) and T-shirts.
Weddle is one of the NFL’s top game-changers. He’s started every game over the last four seasons, 64 straight heading into 2014. His 12 interceptions over the last three seasons (2011-13) are tied for third-most in the NFL, while three of his 18-career picks have been returned for touchdowns. And he has three career interceptions against Peyton Manning, two of which he’s returned for touchdowns and a third that prevented a touchdown during a win over Manning’s Colts in the divisional playoffs at the end of Weddle’s rookie season in 2007. Weddle also has been a thorn in the side of the Kansas City Chiefs, recording four interceptions against them since 2011.
Weddle moved into the starting lineup in 2008 and finished the year second on the team in tackles with a career-high 135, just one behind the team leader. He also set a team record with an 86-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. His all-around game improved each year and in 2010, he received his first all-pro honors when he was selected to AP’s All-Pro second team after the Chargers finished the season ranked first in the NFL in pass defense. Weddle helped turn around a pass defense that just two seasons earlier ranked second-to-last in the league. Within months, the Chargers rewarded Weddle with a new five-year contract and it kicked off the best season of his young career in 2011. He helped clinch two early-season back-to-back wins with late fourth-quarter interceptions, becoming just the third Chargers defender to do so in the previous 20 years. It was the beginning of a Pro Bowl season in which Weddle tied for the NFL lead with a career-high seven picks. And it wasn’t just Pro Bowl accolades that Weddle earned, as a slew of All-Pro accolades followed, accompanied by his selection as the Chargers’ Defensive Player of the Year. Weddle even intercepted two passes in the Pro Bowl, one of which resulted in a touchdown after a lateral, while also breaking up a game-high three passes in a 59-41 win by the AFC.
A Southern California native, playing for the Chargers has been a dream come true. Weddle grew up in Alta Loma, Calif., a little more than 100 miles north of San Diego. He and his wife, Chanel, his former high school sweetheart, married in La Jolla in July 2005. The couple has four children: Brooklyn Marie, Silver Jean, Gaige and Kamri Jo. On the day in 2007 when the Chargers traded with Chicago to move up 25 spots in the second round to draft Weddle, Chanel surprised him by telling him that she was pregnant with Gaige. Eric and Chanel wed before Eric’s junior season at Utah. They lived near Utah State in Ogden where Chanel went to school and played soccer for the Aggies. Eric, meanwhile, commuted nearly an hour each way to Salt Lake City where the University of Utah is located for school and football.
Weddle was a special education major at Utah who helped tutor students with learning disabilities. As a professional, he has remained active in the community supporting a number of worthy causes, including breast cancer as his grandmother is a two-time survivor of the disease.
Weddle is a gym-rat and an avid golfer. He plays basketball and golf several times a week and is a single-digit handicap on the links. In January, just days after the Chargers were eliminated from the AFC Playoffs, Weddle tweeted out a picture after hitting his first-ever hole-in-one on the 210-yard fifth hole at the Ko’olau Golf Club in Honolulu. Weddle also enjoys bowling and movie nights with the family.
Weddle’s incredible rise through the NFL was chronicled in a book entitled “No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story.” It was written by Trent Toone and published by Shadow Mountain. The book, which tells Weddle’s story of overcoming adversity and accomplishing impossible dreams, hit bookshelves in May 2013. Weddle’s former coach at the University of Utah, Kyle Wittingham, wrote the foreword.