PHILADELPHIA (AP/CBS) — Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl parade ended in a raucous, emotional rally as hundreds of thousands of partying Eagles fans jammed the streets leading to the city’s famed “Rocky” steps to revel in an NFL title many thought would never come.
Fans clad in Eagles green lined up 20 deep in spots to catch a glimpse of the champs, who rode in open-top, double-decker buses. Bundled up against freezing winds, some fans from New Jersey walked across the nearly 2-mile long Benjamin Franklin Bridge just to get into the city.READ MORE: SEPTA Union Unanimously Approves Strike If Deal Isn't Reached
The parade kicked off at 11 a.m. as buses filled with the Super Bowl champion Eagles left the stadium complex in South Philadelphia to begin their journey to the Art Museum.
Coach Doug Pederson carried the Lombardi Trophy past the cheering throngs, while franchise owner Jeffrey Lurie held a sign saying “THANK YOU FANS” while standing next to the team’s three quarterbacks: Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, injured starter Carson Wentz and third-stringer Nate Sudfeld.
“We were wondering if we would ever see the Eagles win a Super Bowl in our lifetimes, and we may not ever see another one,” said John Thompson, 56, of suburban Downingtown. “That’s why we’re here today.”
The players got into the Philly spirit. Center Jason Kelce walked the route in an outlandishly sequined Mummers getup — a nod to Philadelphia’s raucous annual parade on New Year’s Day — slapping fans’ hands and leading them in a profane chant broadcast on live TV. Defensive end Chris Long wore a full-length, fake fur coat atop an Allen Iverson 76ers jersey.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the Eagles made their way down the Art Museum steps to begin the ceremony.
During the ceremony, Lurie thanked the fans for sticking by the team.
“This Super Bowl championship is for you,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told the vast crowd. “You are the most passionate and deserving sports fans on the planet. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
When Pederson was announced, the noise was deafening.
“I’m so proud of these group of men. The dedication, the commitment, the desire, and the will to never quit, this is a resilient group,” said Pederson to a raucous ovation.
Pederson also echoed Lurie’s sentiments that more of this is to come.
“This is our new norm to be playing football in February,” said Pederson.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles got a rousing ovation when he came up to the podium to speak.
“I don’t think words can really describe what is happening today,” said Foles.
He added, “It is an honor for us to bring y’all a Super Bowl. We finally did it, we’re Super Bowl champs.”
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who went down near the end of the regular season with a knee injury, got emotional speaking to the crowd.
“From the moment I got here, I knew this was a special place,” said Wentz, adding that fans to get used to these kinds of moments.
Eagles center Jason Kelce then went on a Super Bowl-epic rant, calling out those who criticized the team during the season.
“Jason Peters was told he was too old, didn’t have it anymore. Before he got hurt, he was the best freaking tackle in the NFL. Big V was told he didn’t have. Stefen Wisniewski wasn’t good enough. Jason Kelce’s too small. Lane Johnson can’t lay off the juice. Brandon Brooks has anxiety. Carson Wentz didn’t go to a Division One school. Nick Foles don’t got it. Corey Clement is too slow. LeGarrette Blount don’t got it no more. Jay Ajayi can’t stay healthy. Torrey Smith can’t catch. Nelson Agholor can’t catch. Zach Ertz can’t block. Brent Celek’s too old. Brandon Graham was drafted too high. Vinny Curry ain’t got it. Beau Allen can’t fit the scheme. Mychal Kendricks can’t fit the scheme. Nigel Bradham can’t catch. Jalen Mills can’t cover. Patrick Robinson can’t cover. It’s the whole team!” said Kelce.READ MORE: Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery Rebranded As The Bellwether District
Dan Tarvin, 29, was pumped after getting to high-five Pederson and GM Howie Roseman, who was instrumental in putting together a squad expected to compete for championships for years to come.
“They are more than heroes. They’re legends. They’re immortal in this city, forever,” Tarvin said.
Natasha Curley, 31, a janitor from Trenton, New Jersey, said the Super Bowl victory silences fans of despised rivals like the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
“This stops all the hate,” she said. “They got nothing to say now.”
Tens of thousands of early birds flocked to the parade route Thursday morning to celebrate the Eagles’ first NFL title in nearly 60 years. People began lining the five-mile route before dawn in frigid wind chills in the low 20s.
Trains coming in from the suburbs were jammed and riders had to wait for multiple trains just to cram inside. Parking lots at suburban New Jersey rail stations were filled and closed hours before the 11 a.m. start of the parade.
For buddies John Thompson, Don Smith and Craig Moyer, coming to the parade was a “bucket list event.”
“We were wondering if we would ever see the Eagles win a Super Bowl in our lifetimes, and we may not ever see another one,” said Thompson, 56, of suburban Downingtown, as the trio exited a deli called “Pastrami and Things” in downtown Philadelphia. “That’s why we’re here today.”
Smith said he came in from Harrisburg, hitting the road at 3 a.m. and meeting his pals at 5 a.m.
Moyer, also of Downingtown, said he came to the parade to honor his late mother, a life-long Eagles fan.
“My mother was from the coal regions, she passed at 91 years old,” the 66-year-old said. “She was an Eagles fan who used to tell me about the old championship games. So this is for her. We’re down here for her.”
The parade caps a glorious week for jubilant fans celebrating an NFL title. Led by backup quarterback Nick Foles and second-year coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles beat the New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday night.
Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney asked fans to celebrate with passion and pride after Sunday’s wild postgame celebration was marred by “knuckleheads” who resorted to violence and vandalism.
“Now remember — act responsibly, don’t ruin this for the fans who have waited decades for what will be a historic day as the Eagles finally parade up Broad Street,” he said. “We are, after all, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.”
A gas station convenience store that was looted and vandalized after Sunday’s game was cleaned up and loaded with snacks — and about 20 police officers were in position to make sure it stayed that way.
Organizers prepared for as many as 2 million people, though city officials have said they aren’t planning to release a crowd estimate — making any number a guess as easily inflatable as a football (sorry Pats fans).
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)