BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Eric Rowe was in a daze after being told he was being traded from Philadelphia to New England in September of 2016, wondering why the team that drafted in the second round a year earlier no longer wanted him.
The safety says he was blindsided by the deal to the Patriots, who sent the Eagles a fourth-round draft pick.
One message of support he received stood out. It was a text from Eagles veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had taken a young Rowe under his wing.
“I remember he texted me the day I got traded just telling me that everything happens for a reason,” Rowe recalled. “‘Whatever you do, just keep working, because you’re going to be great one day.'”
Two seasons later, Jenkins and Rowe will be on opposite sidelines with a championship at stake.
Jenkins said it was a no-brainer to try to mentor Rowe when he was the Eagles.
“He played a lot as a rookie, played some significant snaps. But once he got traded I wanted to send him a text encouraging him,” Jenkins said. “Sometimes this business will move you around and then teams will get rid of you and doubt you. But at the end of the day don’t let it change what you think about yourself. You’re gonna be a great player.”
Rowe said the words from a “phenomenal leader” like Jenkins helped him focus following the trade.
“I knew it was just the business of the NFL,” Rowe said. “I’m like, ‘OK, I need to take advantage of this opportunity, because you don’t get a lot of opportunities to play for the Patriots.'”
In the season-plus that Rowe has been gone from Philadelphia, he’s become yet another young defender who as developed into an asset in the Patriots’ system.
Including the playoffs, he has appeared in 22 games for New England, totaling 49 tackles and two interceptions.
Rowe has primarily been used as an extra defensive back in passing situations and could draw the responsibility as the last line of defense against the Eagles receivers.
With linebacker Jordan Hicks out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury, Rowe may be matched up with receiver Nelson Agholor.
Agholor was Philadelphia’s first-round pick in 2015 and led the Eagles with a career-best 62 receptions for 768 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I talk to guys. We’re still friends. We hang out in the offseason,” Rowe said. “I texted them ‘Congrats’ because some of us were in the same draft class or on the same team.”
Friends or not, Rowe is ready for whatever comes next as he vies for his second straight Super Bowl ring.
“It’s only my third year, and my second going to a Super Bowl. I don’t know what the odds of that are, so obviously I don’t take it for granted,” Rowe said. “But there’s a couple of guys in here that have been to four, and they still take it like their first one. So I never take it for granted.”
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to his report.
Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower