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Taking Different Roads To The NFL

Posted Jul 8, 2014

An NFL roster isn’t all draft picks and simple career paths. Many reach this point in unconventional ways and take non-traditional paths to make it to the highest level of the game. Some of the current Eagles players have interesting stories to tell ...

An NFL roster isn’t all draft picks and simple career paths. Many reach this point in unconventional ways and take non-traditional paths to make it to the highest level of the game. Some of the current Eagles players have interesting stories to tell.

You may focus on the first-round draft picks and the high-profile names, and that’s understandable. However, it’s true that a locker room is comprised of players who fell in love with the game at various points in their lives.

FRANCES MAYS, DE

Frances Mays stands out from the crowd at 6-foot-9 and 291 pounds. Signed as a rookie free agent after playing collegiately at Central Lakes Community College and then at Florida A&M, Mays is looking to stick as a big, big man on the defensive line. He’s come a long way since starting his football career as a high school senior. Prior to that, Mays did not participate in organized sports, instead concentrating on school and music.

“I never played sports,” said Mays, who gained inspiration from a high school custodian who suggested he give football a try. “I don’t really have a good reason why, I just never did. Then when I was 18, I was a senior in high school, I figured I’d give football a shot.

“Now that I’ve been playing football, I don’t know how I ever did without it. I love it. I love the physicality of the game, love the competition. It changed my life. It’s funny how things work out sometimes.”

JOSH KADDU, LB

The story of Josh Kaddu isn’t as much about him and how he started his career, because it all sounds very ordinary: He fell in love with the game watching the Oakland Raiders with his father and became a star in high school, was heavily recruited and attended Oregon and then was drafted by Miami in the fifth round of the 2012 draft. The Eagles signed Kaddu in early January and here he is, trying to make the team.

Kaddu’s family background is unique, however. His father, Fred, was the heavyweight boxing champion in Africa with Uganda as his home base, and moved his family to the United States with the hopes of continuing his career here.

Josh was born in California, and while his father’s boxing career didn’t take off, the son’s football career certainly did.

Kaddu played strongside linebacker at Oregon and teamed with Dion Jordan to create havoc off the edge for the Ducks' defense. At 6-foot-3 and 252 pounds, Kaddu hopes to have found solid footing in the Eagles’ scheme.

KARIM BARTON, OL

The journey of Karim Barton from the streets of Kingston, Jamaica to the NFL is an inspiring one. His mother, Carol, died of a blood clot when he was 13 years old. Barton moved from Jamaica to Los Angeles and spent his high school years in South Central Los Angeles, a dangerous area in the city.

Guided by his brother, Shawn, Barton stayed on the right course, attended College of the Canyons out of high school and earned a football scholarship to Morgan State.

“Football came to me as a second sport,” Barton said. “I grew up playing soccer and cricket, but I was big in high school, so everyone told me to play football. But I was like, 'No, I don’t want to break my neck, I don’t want to hurt myself.' But when junior year came, I finally thought, ok, because of my size I’m going to play. So I started playing, and then I started getting the (recruitment) letters from universities, at which point I thought, alright, this is a ticket to college here. But at the end of high school, I didn’t get any concrete offers, so I went to a junior college called COC (College of the Canyons).

"I was qualified (academically) out of high school, so I didn’t need to stay there two years. In fall semester 2009, I earned a scholarship from Morgan State, and from spring 2010 to last fall, I played my college ball there. I graduated last fall with a bachelor’s (degree) in business administration, and here I am now.”

He’s an athletic offensive lineman who knows he has to be a sponge and learn everything he can about the game from line coach Jeff Stoutland to make this roster.

DAVON MORGAN, DB

Talk about pursuing a dream. Davon Morgan knows how rough the NFL can be – he was signed by the Jets after the 2011 draft, possibly the worst time ever for a rookie not drafted to sign with a team. The league’s work stoppage cut short the offseason and, thus, an opportunity for longshots to make rosters. It certainly impacted Morgan, who was released by the Jets following the team’s final preseason game.

Morgan didn’t give up. He played with Richmond of the Professional Indoor Football League and then he attended Virginia Tech’s Pro Day in the 2014 offseason. The Eagles were there, liked what they saw, and are giving Morgan another chance to make it in the NFL.

He signed with the Eagles on a tryout basis during the spring’s rookie camp and earned a spot on the 90-man roster. He still has a ways to go to make it, and he knows the way the business operates. Still, Morgan has come a long way from making $150 a game playing in the PIFL.

“My motivation has always been high,” he said. “You’re the author of your own book, so it’s up to you to write how it starts and finishes.”

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