This is a dream come true for Chandon Sullivan, playing in the NFL, being challenged by the best of the best, learning the ropes at the highest level of the game. That is being thrown into an extremely difficult situation – New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees one game and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. the next – doesn't take away from the experience.
Tough times make a young man better.
"Everything has happened pretty fast for me in the last month, being called up from the practice squad and playing now, getting ready for Sunday," said Sullivan, signed by the Eagles after the 2018 NFL Draft, waived prior to the initial formation of the 53-man roster, added to the practice squad a day later on September 2, and then moving to the active roster on October 25, three days before making his debut in London against Jacksonville. "I'm appreciative for the opportunity and I'm doing everything I can to play my best and get better every day.
"This can be an overwhelming experience if you're not prepared. It's a very fast pace on and off the field. Being on the field with Drew Brees on Sunday, I take my hat off to him. He's a future Hall of Famer. He put the ball right where it needed to be. I thought I did what the coaches asked me to do, but of course, the other players get paid, too. And Brees, he's right on with his passes. Their receivers made plays. I felt like I competed and I played hard, but it wasn't enough."
If you looked out on the field the last two games and wondered the name of the guy who wore No. 39, you aren't alone. Chandon Sullivan is among the more anonymous names on the roster. He was a star cornerback at Georgia State, playing in a school-record 49 games with 44 starts. He was a three-time all-conference selection and became the first football player in Georgia State history to earn first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American honors (he majored in journalism and achieved a 3.84 grade-point average).
On the field, Sullivan was a shutdown player, finishing his collegiate career with the most interceptions (7) and passes defensed (25) in program history. Bottom line: Sullivan is an accomplished young man, well spoken, highly motivated. He's a great kid.
But can he cover OBJ on Sunday as a potential starter with the Eagles secondary that could be without cornerbacks Sidney Jones, Jalen Mills, and Rasul Douglas?
"It's always been a goal of mine to play in the NFL and I wanted to be in position where once I got my opportunity, I would make the most of it," Sullivan said. "I'm getting an opportunity to play now, so I've just got to continue to improve and earn the trust from the coaches and the players. My confidence level is high. It's always high. I know that cornerbacks are going to get beat. That's just the nature of the game. You have to have a short memory. They're going to make plays and you're going to make plays, too. You've got to continue to be resilient and bounce back.
"This is a game that tests you mentally, physically, and technically and you have to combine it all and put your best performance forward on Sundays."
On Sunday, with his family in the stands, Sullivan is going to suit up and he's going to play. Sullivan was in for 19 snaps against Dallas two weeks ago and he played 26 on Sunday against New Orleans. There are growing pains along the way, but there is also dedication to the craft and a sustained goal to improve each week.
Beckham won't be an easy player to cover. The Giants, as an offense, pose a tremendous threat to the Eagles with the talents of running back Saquon Barkley added to Beckham and tight end Evan Engram and slot receiver Sterling Shepard stretching an injury-riddled defense to the limits. Sullivan is spending just about every waking moment watching film and studying the playbook and honing his technique.
He is, at the end of the day, a rookie who has exactly zero fanfare trying to establish himself in this unforgiving NFL.
And Beckham is on the other side of the line of scrimmage as Sullivan watches film.
"It should be fun. He's fast, he's explosive. He's kind of a freak athlete," Sullivan said. "His hands, obviously, are great. He's shifty and he's savvy. You've got to be alert all the time and you've got to know where he is on the field at all times and just go out there with your best effort because he's going to bring his."
The Eagles entered Training Camp feeling like they turned their cornerback situation into an enviable one. Ronald Darby and Mills were the starters and Jones was going to push for time. Fourth-round draft pick Avonte Maddox would be in the mix as would Douglas, a third-round draft pick a season ago. There were some developmental players to consider as well, notably De'Vante Bausby, who was so impressive in the spring.
Sullivan? A young prospect to take a look at, to work with, to see how he would come along on the practice squad for the season. But now we're here in a true must-win moment, and Sullivan could very well be a starter (along with Bausby). That's life in the NFL. It's entirely unpredictable.
"Things have slowed down out there and I've got my confidence. This is fun. I'm being paid to play football and a few years ago, I would have thought that was almost impossible. But here I am. And I'm here to make the most of my chances," Sullivan said. "This is my job. This is a business. They aren't going to take it easy on me because of where I came from. There is no place I'd rather be. I'm taking care of my body, staying focused. You have to bring it play in and play out. Everybody at this level is fast, a professional. You have to be almost perfect on every play or you'll be exposed."
Welcome to the NFL, kid. Go cover No. 13. They say he's pretty good …