On a Wednesday evening during Training Camp, the entire Eagles roster sat inside the NovaCare Complex Auditorium, minus one Jon Dorenbos. However, the room was not void of the veteran long snapper for long as head coach Doug Pederson turned on the television and flipped the channel just in time for the players to watch their teammate on America's Got Talent.
Dorenbos has been on a magical ride over the past several weeks, putting his entertainment skills on full display for the national television audience. Perhaps his biggest cheering section is made up of the players around him in the locker room on a daily basis.
"I don't think anything feels better than when you get the respect of your teammates because you're here with them so long," Dorenbos said. "I see what they go through, what they overcome to play not only for themselves but everybody else. So, you kind of step away and there's a moment when they all rally for me and it's super cool because I love these guys.
"I've played for this team for a long time and I want to win more than anything. It's really cool that the team had my back and the players, the fans. I can't thank you enough. It's so, so cool. Nothing gives me more pride than to represent Philly as an Eagle on the stage in Dolby Theatre."
With each appearance, he's stepped up his act and wowed the judges, and the viewers, time and time again. His latest trick, which even incorporated long-snapping into the mix, earned him one of 10 spots in the show's finale which airs on NBC this Tuesday, September 13.
His first performance on the show earned him the "Golden Buzzer," automatically sending him through to the live performance round. Every time out, he's left the celebrity judges - model Heidi Klum, singer Mel B, comedian Howie Mandel and music executive Simon Cowell – at a loss for words while also sending them to their feet. For Dorenbos, the moments have been surreal, something out of a dream.
But, the long snapper's main goal in performing is to bring his audience as much joy as magic has brought him.
"I just want people to have fun. Magic is just cool and that's what it's been my whole life," Dorenbos said. "I want to bring the energy. I always wanted to be a rock star, but I have no musical ability whatsoever. So, I try and just get my rock star moment and feel like Bruce Springsteen or Garth Brooks on stage. In my mind, I told myself I was Garth Brooks at that moment. I was like, 'Holy cow. This is what Garth Brooks feels like. This is sick.
"Take it for what it is. I've always said this – I didn't want the NFL to define me. I didn't want magic to define me. I love what I do. I'm just going to enjoy what I do. It'll be a great story for the grandkids because eventually it all ends, right? Then it's all about the ones you love and family and friends. So, I'm just going to ride that wave and enjoy it."
Dorenbos turned to magic during the darkest period of his life. Yet, he turned the tragic story of his childhood, coming home to learn that his father had killed his mother, into a story of perseverance. He shares his story now in hopes of helping anyone who may be going through something similar.
So as he dazzles on stage and laughs and smiles and captures America's appreciation, he does it to spread one simple message - find what you love.
"I think the biggest piece of advice I can have is find happiness. Find true happiness within yourself and don't have it be based on money or materialistic things. Be able to come home and be proud of who you are as a person," Dorenbos said. "It's funny I got into magic, and that's great, but magic saved me from a really bad place. And magic taught me things about myself and I slowly learned that life is magic. Everything around me is magic and everything around me is opportunity.
"I truly believe that how I view myself and how I talk to myself is the same way I view the world and same way I talk to the world. So simply make a decision that when you get up to be happy. And you're going to enjoy the day. And you know what, bad things are going to happen. That's part of life. But if you take the victim card then you're going to be a victim your whole life. So live in vision, not in circumstance. Don't hate, don't blame, forgive and take this world for what it is and if you die happy, wherever that is in your life, if at the moment your time is done and you're happy then that's a great life.