He knew the play was designed to go his way when the huddle broke, so Grant Calcaterra felt a little something extra on the opening play of third quarter of Sunday's game at FedEx Field. Calcaterra lined up on the left side of the formation and ran a crossing route, turned, and saw Jalen Hurts' pass thrown perfectly. Calcaterra made the catch, made a man miss, and turned upfield for another big chunk of yardage. Welcome to the NFL, kid. First-and-10 after that 40-yard gain.
"It was super exciting," Calcaterra said on Wednesday from his NovaCare Complex locker. "Obviously, before the play, I knew the play call and I was just kind of going out there and doing my job. It was a big catch and I was able to make a guy miss. That being my first one, it was exciting and afterwards I was pretty psyched. I smacked Coach (Nick) Sirianni's hand pretty hard, so yeah, it was a lot of fun."
A sixth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Calcaterra dressed for the first time on Sunday and he made the most of his 17 offensive snaps. Given everything that Calcaterra has been through in his football playing career – stepping away from the game after three seasons at Oklahoma due to a series of concussions only to return to play at SMU in 2021 – and then to work his way into the NFL Draft, only to suffer a hamstring injury in his first Training Camp, he was going to realize the significance of the moment.
He's in the NFL. He's on a 3-0 team. And in his first game in uniform, Calcaterra made a contribution to the team's victory and showed, in the process, that he was ready for the moment.
"That's the biggest thing, because they always say you have to be ready when your number is called, and it's true," he said. "This is a business and everyone is here to do his job, so really I felt like I was just going out there and doing my job. You learn right away that this is a business, so that's just the way it is. Obviously, I had the crazy deal in college and then I came here and faced more adversity. I just kept my head down and kept working hard, kept trusting the process, and trusting my coaches and doing everything I could to get ready.
"All of that work, I felt paid off for me."
It wasn't just the reception and run after the catch that had Calcaterra feeling good about things on Sunday, it was the way he blocked and competed in his first NFL regular-season game. The tempo is different than what he experienced in his lone preseason game at Miami, so there was that to understand, and of course he was playing against starting players and Washington's good front seven. A tight end has to do it all, and Calcaterra did his part in the Eagles' three-tight end rotation that day.
"We have a great group of guys and I'm learning all the time," he said.
It's a masterful way the Eagles have evolved the tight end position through the years. The plan for succession is always in play at every position, so when Zach Ertz was traded last season to Arizona, Dallas Goedert was ready to be the No. 1 tight end. Rookie Jack Stoll made the team as an undrafted player in 2021 and has grown into his role as Goedert's backup. Noah Togiai was promoted from the practice squad to the gameday roster for Weeks 1 and 2 before the Eagles gave Calcaterra his shot.
There is always competition. There is always the challenge to improve every day. Over the course of a 17-game season, the Eagles are going to need every one of their 53-man roster players and those on the practice squad.
Calcaterra is on to the next challenge that comes on Sunday when Jacksonville comes to town. What he did at Washington and the resulting shouts of congratulations from friends and family is in the past. Living in the past dooms the present in this league.
"I try to stay even-keeled and take everything with a grain of salt," Calcaterra said, "so, it's definitely nice what happened and I definitely know I can do this. I know that I can play and all that, but right now it's kind of back to the drawing board and working on getting better for the game on Sunday."