Growing up in Glassboro, New Jersey, running back Corey Clement traveled countless times across the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin Bridges. He always caught himself staring at Lincoln Financial Field and dreaming that one day he would cross the end zone and score a touchdown.
The dream became a reality for the rookie free agent Thursday night.
Clement scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds left in the first half as the Eagles beat the Buffalo Bills 20-16 for their first win of the preseason. Clement led the Eagles in rushing for a second straight game with 34 yards on eight carries.
"My hat is off to the O-line for helping me get into it," Clement said of the touchdown. "When you get close to the goal line you have to smell it and you have to refuse to be denied and I just locked in on my linemen, believed in them, and just charged right up their backs.”
Despite being third in the Big Ten in both rushing and touchdowns in 2016, Clement was not selected in the NFL Draft. He signed with the Eagles, but the team added LeGarrette Blount one week later. Thursday night was critical for Clement. With Blount receiving minimal work, Darren Sproles given the night off, and Wendell Smallwood out due to injury, Clement was in line to receive the lion's share of work out of the backfield.
"Corey's been doing a really good job for us. He's a tough kid, as you can see. He's a tough runner, hard runner, smart kid," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's put himself in a good position. He's competing with the other running backs there at his position, and just excited to, you know, for him to score tonight. He had a couple nice little runs, and he's doing a nice job in camp overall.”
Clement said that after his preseason debut last week against the Packers that he had to be more patient. In the second quarter, Clement broke off a 24-yard run down the left side. On the next play, Clement helped in pass protection to give quarterback Matt McGloin additional time to find tight end Brent Celek for a gain of 18 yards which helped set up a 48-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal.
“I felt a lot more calm and being able to handle all of the situations, like catching out the backfield," Clement said. "I think it is definitely vital from Game 1 to Game 2 to expand on a lot of things as far as corrections. (Running backs coach) Duce (Staley) and I always film study, everybody is always in a room, and it’s all about how you take constructive criticism. You have to take it to your fullest advantage and use it to perform out here.”
Two auditions down, two to go for Clement. He fulfilled one dream Thursday night and keeps another one of making the final 53-man roster of the team he grew up cheering for alive.
The Eagles faced the Bills in their preseason home opener, and took home a 20-16 win.