Unlike the other major sports in North America, the NFL isn’t known for being an internationally diverse sport. So, how did a first-generation Indian American land one of the most sought-after gigs on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff?
Sean Desai’s climb to the position of defensive coordinator for the Eagles is one of hard work and determination.
Desai broke into coaching football in 2006 when he landed his first job as a volunteer for Temple. Since then, he has held numerous positions at the collegiate and NFL level, which have now brought him to where he is today, as the league’s first defensive coordinator of Indian descent.
“I’m trying to enter this job as trying to be the best defensive coordinator in the NFL and be the best defensive coordinator I can be, not being the best Indian defensive coordinator,” Desai said. “My job is to be defensive coordinator. I’ve been hired to be a defensive coordinator, and I have to be the best defensive coordinator.”
Still, Desai can’t help but acknowledge the journey he’s taken to get to where he is today.
“A lot of immigrant stories are probably similar: You kind of force yourself to find the balance of retaining your own culture and your own roots to assimilate quickly and fit in,” he said. “You’re seeing that now, on a bigger scale, and these are important conversations that need to be had because you don’t necessarily need to lose one part of yourself to assimilate yourself to another part.”
Now, Desai is setting examples for other Indian Americans. ESPN broadcaster Kevin Negandhi, a Temple University alumni and first-generation Indian American, grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs as a lifelong Eagles fan.
“This is not just a hire,” Negandhi said. “This is a monumental hire for people who look like us, and now we get to root for him personally every weekend because he’s now in Eagles green on the sidelines. We get to double down because it’s one of us now on the sidelines.”
While Desai has a lot to live up to following last year’s Super Bowl appearance, the Eagles and their new defensive coordinator look ready to make another splash in the league.