PHILADELPHIA — The first thing most Philadelphia Eagles players did after Wednesday’s minicamp workout was reach for their phones to check their text messages and social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram.
Tackle Lane Johnson was in that group. The only difference was he was using an old-fashioned flip phone to make a call.
“I traded in my iPhone for it about a month ago,” Johnson said. “I was surprised that the Verizon store had one. I was spending too much time on my phone with social media, playing video games, watching YouTube videos. I decided to go back to 2006, to when people actually talked to each other.”
With that, he flipped his phone open with his thumb and called someone at Kilgore Junior College in Texas, where he played quarterback and tight end in 2008 before earning a scholarship to Oklahoma University as a tackle.
Last month, Johnson gave $500,000 to his former school to construct a 3,800 square-foot training facility that will be called “The Lane” Athletic Performance Center.
He said he got the idea after watching the Netflix series “Last Chance U,” that has chronicled life for junior-college football players at East Mississippi Community College and Independence Community College in Kansas.
Former Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount played for East Mississippi in 2006-07 before earning a scholarship to the University of Oregon.
“I think ‘Last Chance U’ kind of gave a good picture of what the junior college level is about,” Johnson said. “Some of the best athletes I’ve ever played with were at the junior college level, but they don’t really have very much as far as facilities. I’m in a position now to give back. It’s something I wanted to do, something we’d talked about previous years, and it finally got done.”
Like safety Malcolm Jenkins, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and tackle Jason Peters, Johnson skipped the Eagles’ organized team activities to train on his own but had no problem showing up for the mandatory minicamp.
Peters rewarded Johnson on Tuesday by making him the first member of “Team Peters.” Johnson proudly donned a black T-shirt and matching baseball cap after Tuesday’s practice.
“He gave it to me (Tuesday),” Johnson said with a smile. “I think I’m the only member so far, and I guess I’m a lifetime member, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
He’s had to make some adjustments both on and off the field.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, one of Johnson’s best friends on the team, retired last month. Long and Johnson teamed up to create the “underdog” dog masks during the Eagles’ championship run in 2017.
On the field, he’s playing without right guard Brandon Brooks, another close friend who is sidelined indefinitely after rupturing his Achilles tendon in last season’s playoff loss at New Orleans. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is taking the reps at right guard next to Johnson this week.
“It’s hard to say right now (when Brooks will return),” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s doing really well. We’re optimistic in what he’s doing and accomplishing. He’s working extremely hard.”
Johnson might be trying to cut back on social media, but can’t resist getting in a few digs occasionally.
Last week, when quarterback Carson Wentz received a four-year, $128-million contract extension, Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence tweeted: “The richer they get, the better it feels when we humble (them).”
Johnson quickly pointed out that he has yet to give up a sack against Lawrence.
“I’m trying not to go on Twitter and Instagram as much,” Johnson said, “but sometimes it gets the better of me.”