Linebacker Akeem Jordan proved to be another example of the Eagles making a wise decision in signing a player from a small school. Jordan played four years at Division I-AA James Madison, where he won a National Championship in 2004 and was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.
"There are a lot of great players that came out of Division I-AA, and I'm glad I got the chance to make it to the NFL," said Jordan who is one of six I-AA players still on the squad after last season. "It's something that motivates me every day. I'm constantly trying to prove that I'm able to play at this level."
In 2007, Jordan became the first player from JMU to start in an NFL game since wide receiver Macey Brooks started three games for the Bears in 2000.
"People say it is a hard role, but I don't think it's that hard," he said. "I work hard and I am just blessed."
Entering his second season in the league, the 23-year-old is set to be the backup at the weakside linebacker spot and he wants to match his level of play with the trio of starters - Stewart Bradley, Omar Gaither and Chris Gocong.
"I would want to step in and not have any fall off if they come out," Jordan said. "I don't want to be 'that guy' who doesn't know what he is doing when I step on the field."
One of the ways that the linebackers develop their skills at training camp can be described as unorthodox. The linebackers line up, face a partner and proceed to toss a football back and forth as fast as they can. It's kind of like hot potato, but the contests tend to get competitive.
"Me and O.G., we are the dream team," Jordan said. "It's to see how many catches you can get within 10 seconds. It works on hand-eye coordination and quickness."
As the time approaches for the preseason to begin, Jordan has the chance to implement all that he has worked on since the end of last season - no matter how unconventional the drills may have been.
"I am very excited for Pittsburgh," said Jordan, who should see the field quite a bit in the preseason. "I want to see if I can handle the game-time situations and everything."