From Star to Special Teams? Alex Singleton Tries to Catch On with the Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Mixed in with the Eagles draft picks, undrafted free agents, and tryout players participating in the team's rookie camp over the weekend was one professional star nestled in the back of the team's locker room, Alex Singleton.
In South Philadelphia these days the former CFL All-Star is just another face in the crowd, however. A player given an opportunity, a temporary locker stall, and a number, 49, which doesn't exactly scream contributor.
Don't read too much into the number, though, because it's the same one Singleton had when he was helping lead the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup championship.
Now 25, Singleton has set his sights on the NFL and there were plenty of suitors for the Montana State product's services this offseason with the Eagles winning a mini-bidding war over Arizona, the Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland and Minnesota, a team which previously gave Singleton a look when he was straight out of college before he became arguably the best defender North of the Border.
"The CFL will always be there for me," Singleton told 973espn.com when asked why he's trying to make the shift from being the biggest trout in a small stream to the back end of Philadelphia's roster.
As an undrafted player out of a small-school environment, Singleton originally tried to catch the eye of Pete Carroll in Seattle before Bill Belichick and New England wanted a look and finally Mike Zimmer with the Vikings. While it didn't generate the desired result for Singleton the fact that three of the best defensive minds in football felt he deserved an opportunity foreshadowed that something was there.
That manifested itself in Canada where Singleton was eligible to be drafted because he has dual citizenship due to his mother being born in Toronto.
"I think you take things from every defense and every coach," Singleton said. "The goal is to learn everything you can and keep moving forward with more information and take advantage of that.”
In 2016 just as Doug Pederson was putting his stamp on the Eagles Singleton took his place in the middle of the Calgary defense and the result was the two All-Star selections, an Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017, and the Grey Cup.
"I'm a different player now," Singleton assessed. "I don't think there is any better way to improve than by playing and the time I spent [in the CFL] really helped me."
Every box was checked in Canada so Singleton is taking another shot in the states as a now fully-developed 6-foot-2, 240-pound LB who carried himself like the adult in the room at the Eagles' rookie camp.
“I could have stayed up in Canada," Singleton admitted. "It always a big decision and guys do it for different reasons. Because of my mom, Canada will always be there for me and I love Calgary but it was time. I understand things better and I'm still young enough. It's a great opportunity to be 25 and also have the experience and playing time I've had."
The Eagles are among the deepest teams in the NFL but the LB position saw significant turnover with Jordan Hicks, LaRoy Reynolds and D.J. Alexander leaving countered by the recent addition of Zach Brown, the earlier signing of free agent L. J. Fort, and a high-level UDFA in Wisconsin's T.J. Edwards.
Nigel Bradham is the most pedigreed of the returnees followed by Kamu Gruguer-Hill, Nate Gerry and perhaps Paul Worrilow, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.
The odds are against Singelton but his path is clear. Reynolds and Alexander served double duty as two of Philadelphia's best special teams coverage players so the key to unlocking a roster spot is opening the eyes of ST coordinator Dave Fipp.
"Special teams are always important for a linebacker," Singelton assessed. "Even in Calgary, I was on two teams so that's nothing I'm not used to."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen