March 20, 2024   7 MIN READ

Coming Into His Own

Second-Year LB Craves More While Giving Back


In the absence of football, Eagles linebacker Ben VanSumeren has exhausted every avenue to satisfy his appetite, including adopting a new hobby to exercise his mind in his leisure time.

“I nearly wake up every other night with a dream of playing ball, probably because I went to sleep playing Madden,” he said, laughing.

The laughter, however, couldn’t conceal the intense fire burning within VanSumeren, whose fixation for the trade was evident within moments of a phone conversation.

His entire offseason to this point has centered on self-improvement or impacting those around him.

Earlier in the offseason, VanSumeren and some friends in the league ventured to Theradynamics, located in the heart of New York City.

Presided over by trainer Andrew Watkins, the group trained in the nearly empty facility for a couple weeks, with emphasis placed on health and wellness for longevity purposes.

Among the contingent was VanSumeren’s younger brother, Alex, a defensive tackle at Michigan State whom Ben lured away from spring break.

Ben VanSumeren

GETTY IMAGES: Second-year LB Ben VanSumeren has competition above him but is ready for more in Year 2.

The two brothers brought the best out of each other, as competition was a common thread.

“He’s a d-tackle, so he’s a big guy,” Ben said. “I mean, I still out-lift him quite a bit. He’s still got a couple years until he catches me. But he is a big, strong dude. He’s 300-plus.”

Every moment of VanSumeren’s days are seemingly calculated, exclusively formatted to maximize efficiency and productivity.

An average day for VanSumeren begins around 9-9:30 upon waking up – he believes in sleeping as long as possible – before heading over to Old Town Gym, located in his hometown of Bay City, Michigan.

He’ll typically spend about two hours there, prioritizing strength training and mobility.

With his legs finally back under him, VanSumeren will work his way onto the field a few days a week. Sometimes, he’ll even wander over to nearby Saginaw Valley State, making use of the school’s elegant field house and turf.

But the work continues well after his training is done for the day.

In addition to preparing for his second NFL season, one in which he’ll have an opportunity to carve out a more substantial role under a new defensive staff, VanSumeren is also preparing a presentation for a Thursday speaking engagement at his former middle school – one of three within the next week – as well as finalizing details for his first “Ben VanSumeren Football Camp.”

The forthcoming speaking engagements, where VanSumeren will speak to local schools ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, are tailored to convey the message of “intentional focus,” pouring maximum energy into one’s passion, and remaining singularly honed-in on the current task.

“Some of the thing that would have helped me when I was younger, and some of the things that I’ve picked up – even through college – is how you do one thing is how you do everything,” VanSumeren said. “That’s something that no matter if the kids want to play in the league, whether they want to be a doctor or a nurse – whatever it is that they do – that’s something that can really help them.

“Some people just can’t turn it off and on – how you do one thing is how you do everything. So, that’s something I’m focusing on, as well as intentional focus.

“I feel like some people get involved in these tasks, and everybody wants to be great until it’s time to really lock in and hone in on what’s at hand. That’s something that really helped me and I picked that up in college – intentional focus.”

The camp, near-and-dear to VanSumeren, will host local high school kids around the community.

“It’s pretty meaningful to me,” VanSumeren said. “I’m from a really small town. And I’m the first NFL player from my high school, I’m really the first Power 5 college football player to ever come from my high school as well, my brother being the second.

“So, it’s something that’s big for the area. I’m excited about it. I’m getting all my people around here involved. People love football around here, but they don’t really know the ins-and-outs of the recruiting process, they don’t know the ins-and-outs of this game and stuff like that. So, I’m happy to bring some drills back here and help out the community.”

Amid his offseason endeavors, VanSumeren eyes a more prominent role under new Eagles defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. And there’s considerable optimism surrounding the uber-athletic 23-year-old, who appeared in nine games (one start) as a rookie.

Originally pegged as an immensely raw, albeit supremely athletic, developmental player in training camp, VanSumeren worked diligently to flip the script and etch out a role on the active roster.

He parlayed his role as a core special teamer into defensive duties, showcasing his progression in his lone start on Christmas Day against the New York Giants, a performance that garnered praise.

“I’m a guy who no matter what I’m doing, I pick it up very quick,” he explained. “I was blessed to be in a room with some older guys last year – Nick [Norrow], Zach [Cunningham], Shaq [Leonard] – and really being around those guys and hearing some of the thing that they had to say, it really helped me. I started looking at things a little bit different.

“My coaching in the league is much different than the coaching that I had previously in college. I think towards the end of the season, not only did my instincts and everything improve, but I considered myself an instinctual player.

“I looked at myself next to some guys that have been doing it for a while and guys who have been starters in the league for a long time, and I diagnose and read just as quick – or I think in most cases, quicker than them. I’m just happy with how that’s all progressed for me. I think it’s really helped me out.”

When asked about other areas where he can improve in Year 2, VanSumeren was quick to diagnose that, too.

“I wanna be a leader,” he said. “I wanna be very vocal. I played MIKE and dime last year, the two inside linebacker positions in our defense. I wanna be a vocal guy. I wanna be a vocal guy around the locker room, I wanna be vocal with some of my teammates.

“That’s a role that, as a MIKE, being a guy that has to wear the green dot from time-to-time – or green dot all the time – is something that I would like to do. With my understanding of this new defense and everything coming in, I think I’d be more confident in doing that.”

Age and experience go out the window when listening to VanSumeren, who’s not only wise beyond his years but also intent on becoming a mainstay on a roster in transition.

“I wanna be somebody that anybody can come and talk to. I felt like I was like that in college,” he continued. “I’m a guy who came into the league undrafted, there’s people that can respect that, there’s people that can relate to that. And just knowing my story and how I came up and what I’ve gone through to get here, I feel like people can really relate to that.

“They know I’m really about my business. I love ball, I love learning and I love all the knowledge that goes into the scheme and the defense. And I know being around guys that are like that as well, you really tend to listen those guys and you really respect their insight. I wanna be one of those guys going forward. I think in Year 2, that’s something that’s really important.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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