When Darius Prince finished his senior season at Penn State - Beaver in 2014, his goal became to play in the NFL.
But there was one problem. He didn't play any college football.
The West Mifflin, Pennsylvania native had played only basketball for three years at Penn State - Greater Allegheny and one year at Penn State - Beaver and was unable to play professionally overseas after. So, he decided to pursue football, a sport he hadn't played since high school.
The plan was to start with an indoor football team and maybe one day catch the eye of the NFL. It was one that he even admitted was a long shot.
"I thought it was a little far-fetched to be honest," Prince said. "But I always told myself that at these workouts, you only need one person to like you and I always thought that if I had the opportunity to get in front of an NFL team, someone would take a chance on me. I never really had doubt but I felt like it was a little far-fetched."
The Eagles took that chance on Prince.
Following a workout with the team a week prior, the Eagles signed the 6-1, 185-pound wide receiver on Saturday. Years of hard work for the 28-year-old who truly started at the bottom had paid off.
"It's a surreal feeling," Prince said at his locker prior to Sunday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "It's everything I ever worked for. When I made the decision to get back into football, I told myself if I was going to do it, I'm going to do it at 110 percent and when I made the decision, I just didn't want to look back on life and wonder, 'What if?' So when I made my mind up to do it, I put in 110 percent."
It took a lot for Prince to reach this point in his career. It started when LaRoi Johnson, head football coach at Sto-Rox High School outside of Pittsburgh, helped Prince earn an invite to the Steel City Super Combine. From that opportunity, he played with the Erie Explosion and various semi-pro teams in Pittsburgh before the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the National Arena League signed him in 2017. He was gaining some footing in the arena football landscape after having to fight just to be noticed.
"With a basketball background, not too many people wanted to take a chance on me," Prince said. "So I really had to go out there and showcase that I could play football without playing college football."
After a successful season with the Steelhawks, Prince made it to the Arena Football League when the Philadelphia Soul signed him for the 2017 playoffs. Prince wasted no time making a good impression, totaling nine receptions, 103 yards, and three touchdowns in two playoff games. The Soul repeated as Arena Bowl Champions and Prince earned the title game's MVP honors.
In his first full season in the AFL in 2018, Prince earned All-Arena recognition after leading the AFL with 89 receptions. His 1,076 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns ranked second and third in the AFL, respectively. When the season ended, he immediately received invites to visit with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then with the Eagles.
Prince worked out for the Eagles with quarterback Christian Hackenberg on August 12. He said the praise he received from Hackenberg as well as vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas and head coach Doug Pederson gave him confidence before he signed.
"I'm up for the challenge," Prince said. "I've been knocking down the walls so far, so I'm looking to do the same here."
Prince will face several challenges as he joins the Eagles. He will need to need to be brought up to speed on the team's playbook as Training Camp has already concluded, he will need to prove he can physically compete at football's top level, and he will deal with the pressures of joining the NFL's defending champions. But Prince plans to bring to the Eagles the same hard-working attitude that brought him to this point.
"It's a grind every day," Prince said. "When you set your mind to do something, you can't really afford to take any days off. ... Obviously, you don't want to kill yourself but you have to push yourself to get where you want to be and this level is where I want to be and life is all about making sacrifices for the things you want. I'm used to it. I've been doing it for a couple years now, starting from the bottom and grinding my way to the top, so I'm just trying to make it now."
Luckily for him, Prince said all of his new teammates have been welcoming and eager to answer any of his questions. Prince wants to learn as much as possible from the Eagles' wide receivers who have been in the league for a while.
"Obviously, those guys are studs in this league," Prince said. "They've made a name for themselves in the NFL, they've been here for so long in the NFL. I'm like a sponge with them. Whatever I can get out of them, I'm going to soak it up and take it all in."
Reaching the NFL is incredibly exciting for Prince. Prince cried when he received the call from the Eagles offering him a contract. He called his family and his daughter cried as well. They all know what it took to reach this point.
But now, it's time to work. Prince isn't satisfied with just making a preseason roster. He wants to use this opportunity to get into the league - and stay there.
"I just want to show them what I showed them in the workout. I want to show them that even though I didn't play college football, I can play at a high level like this." Prince said. "At the end of the day, I still need to make the 53-man roster and that's what I'm here to do, but just to be in this position I'm in today, it's just a surreal feeling. I can't describe it."