Johnstown’s Chris Peduzzi played an integral role in helping the Philadelphia Eagles traverse an injury-filled road to Super Bowl LII.
As the veteran head athletic trainer and director of sports medicine for the NFL team, Peduzzi watched, almost in amazement, as the Eagles seemingly shrugged off one devastating injury after another down the stretch.
“This team has been unreal. This team hasn’t blinked,” said Peduzzi, who is in his 19th season with the Eagles and will be part of his second Super Bowl on Feb. 4. “We have a Pro Bowl team sitting on IR.
“We have a Pro Bowl quarterback (Carson Wentz) on IR, a potential Hall of Fame tackle (Jason Peters) on IR, a Pro Bowl special teams player (Caleb Sturgis), a potential Hall of Fame running back (Darren Sproles) and our starting middle linebacker (Jordan Hicks) on IR.
“If someone said we we’d have all of those players on IR and be in the Super Bowl…”
The Eagles were snubbed as a NFC top-seeded underdog during home playoff games against Atlanta and Minnesota only to win both games. Philadelphia will make its third trip to the Super Bowl and first since losing 24-21 to the Tom Brady-led Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
“This is what you play for,” said Peduzzi, who was a blue-collar, overachieving center and outside linebacker on Greater Johnstown High School’s 11-1 team in 1988.
“This is an unbelievably fun group to be around. They like each other. They play hard.
“They prepare well. It’s a fun group to work with and a fun group to root for.”
Johnstowners have found it easy to “root for” Peduzzi throughout his career.
Former Trojans football coach Jerry Davitch said Peduzzi played a key role on Greater Johnstown’s team that finished one game shy of playing for the WPIAL crown in Three Rivers Stadium.
“I’ve coached a lot of great kids outside of being athletes, and none of them rank any higher than Chris Peduzzi as a person and a human being,” Davitch said. “He’s not caught up in all of this.”
Davitch has texted his former player throughout the Eagles’ run. He appreciates how Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles has guided the team after Wentz’s season-ending injury, much like Conemaugh Township graduate Jeff Hostetler did for the Super Bowl XXV-winning New York Giants.
“After the last couple of games I always texted him with a ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ message,” Davitch said. “He responds right away.
“Nick Foles, their quarterback, is an Arizona Wildcat, as am I. Nick is a guy who has overcome a lot of odds to be where he is.
“The correlation with Peduzzi is he’s a guy who leaves here, goes to Virginia Tech and ends up being a captain of their special teams and a scholarship football player,” Davitch said. “When he left Johnstown nobody was looking at him as a football player.”
Peduzzi walked on at Virginia Tech and evolved into a three-year letterman who played on two bowl teams.
“He kept his nose to the grindstone. He kept grinding,” said B.J. Gibson, a strength and training coach at Greater Johnstown High School and a running back on the 1988 Trojans squad. “When the opportunity came he took advantage of it. He was a good kid and he was a grinder.”
After his college career, Peduzzi became the football athletic trainer at West Chester University. He met renown athletic trainer Rick Burkholder during an internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996 through 1998.
When Burkholder took the top training job with the Eagles, he brought Peduzzi along as an assistant in 1999.
Burkholder eventually followed former Eagles coach Andy Reid to Kansas City, and Peduzzi moved into the role of head athletic trainer in Philadelphia in February 2013.
“He is as persistent as anyone I’ve ever met,” Davitch said. “Chris is a super success story. He’s like a lot of kids in Johnstown.
“From Hornerstown to the Super Bowl.”
The last time Peduzzi and the Eagles played in the big game, they finished three points short.
If Philadelphia somehow upsets the Patriots, who are playing for their Steelers-record-tying sixth Lombardi Trophy, Peduzzi would join another former Trojans teammate in special territory. Chris Stewart is head athletic trainer with the Pittsburgh Penguins and has won three Stanley Cup rings with the Pens and one with Carolina.
“I’m very excited for Chris. He made it to the Super Bowl,” Gibson said. “Another former player, Chris Stewart, won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. It’s great to have two teammates from high school (reach) the highest game in their sports.”