Senior writer Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine in 2000, shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri. While he primarily covers the National Football League, he has also written about gay rugby, suicidal Kenyan runners in Alaska and NCAA compliance officers. He also once suffered the laborious task of traveling to London to interview legendary Queen guitarist Brian May about “We Will Rock You,” the most played stadium anthem ever.
In The Mag’s new NFL Preview issue (on newsstands Friday), Wickersham profiles Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy, who hopes to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards this season in Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense.
In the Q&A below, Wickersham – who is married to espnW Editor-in-Chief Alison Overholt – discusses the McCoy cover story.
What made you want to pursue this LeSean McCoy story?
McCoy was the perfect vessel to tell a story about Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who is a fascinating presence in the NFL. McCoy was so resistant toward Kelly’s methodology and then became a believer. I try to find unconventional ways to profile people, whether it’s profiling [former 49ers coach] Bill Walsh through his book, [49ers owner] Jed York through his stadium, [Patriots quarterback] Tom Brady through a hallway in his apartment, or [former Giants quarterback] Y.A. Tittle through a party. The way to profile Chip Kelly was to do it through his most important – yet initially disagreeing – player.
What was the most interesting thing you uncovered while working on the story?
It was cool to listen to McCoy speak so honestly about how irritated he was about Kelly’s methods, and then to witness how drastically he’s been converted. For instance, when Kelly arrived he wanted the players to wear white socks in practice. McCoy is a bit of a fashionista and always wore black socks, so as a subtle protest of what he considered college gimmicks from his new coach, he wore black socks and taped them white. Now, though, he is such a Kelly devotee that he wears white socks even when working out alone. He also didn’t drink and ate only a small bite of cake at his birthday party because he’s so obsessed with playing at 208 pounds this year, the perfect Kelly weight. You always hear about players “buying into” their coach, but buying into Chip Kelly requires an almost religious devotion.