With the 198th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected 6-foot-5, 214-pound tight end Grant Calcaterra from SMU.
"Coming back to football, really it was just my passion for the game. Ever since I was a little kid, I've only seen myself as a football player. It's all I ever wanted to do. That's who I am. I'm a football player. I played all my life. Playing in the NFL is a dream of mine that I've always had so I wanted to take one shot at it. I'm blessed to be in this position super grateful the Eagles saw something in me to pick me today," Calcaterra said.
Here are five things to know about the Eagles' sixth-round pick:
1. The 23-year-old played his first two years of college ball at Oklahoma, arriving as an early enrollee in 2017 and earning All-Big 12 honorable mention accolades. He improved to First-Team All-Big 12 in a productive sophomore season, totaling 36 receptions for 558 yards and nine touchdowns in his first two years. He played his junior season with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts after his transfer to the Sooners from Alabama.
"I'm so excited to get back to playing with Jalen," Calcaterra said. "He was a great teammate at Oklahoma. We were definitely good friends. I have a ton of respect for him as a player and off the field as well. It was evident how he was a leader so fast coming in as a transfer. Just really excited to get to work with him. I kept in touch with him a little bit in my journey back to playing. I just got off the phone with him about five minutes ago."
2. After missing much of his junior season due to injury, Calcaterra announced his retirement from football in November of 2019. He returned home to Orange County, California, and pursued his passion for firefighting. He also took EMT classes, began working with an ambulance company, and attended fire technology school at Santa Ana College. But after watching the 2020 NFL Draft from home, Calcaterra's desire to play football was reignited. He announced his plans to return to college.
"It was crazy. ... During that time, I learned that I could do anything I set my mind to. I was able to move up the ranks of the firefighting community really fast and I learned a lot about myself – how I can deal with adversity, how I can persevere in tough situations. And so, I think it helped me grow as a player in my last year at SMU and I'm super grateful for that experience.
"The whole time I wasn't playing, I kept one foot in the door. My brother and I were working out in the garage every day to try and keep in shape. But the turning point for me was watching the draft and seeing some tight ends get picked. I really thought I'm just as good as these guys. A couple months after that, I just decided to go for it. I thought to myself, you only have one shot to go to the NFL. And I can't decide to go to the NFL at 30 years old halfway through my fire career. So just decided to go for it and it worked out in a good way for me."
3. Calcaterra initially transferred to Auburn but changed his mind after the departure of coach Gus Malzahn. He decided to attend SMU alongside quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who also transferred from Oklahoma. Calcaterra was a captain for the Mustangs, compiling 38 receptions for 465 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. After playing primarily in the slot for the Sooners, Calcaterra played a more versatile role at SMU, splitting time between the slot and the backfield. He earned Second-Team All-AAC honors. Between SMU and Oklahoma, Calcaterra totaled 79 career receptions for 1,102 yards and 13 touchdowns.
"When I was at SMU, we used the tight end in a lot of ways. In the pass game, in the run game, and I think, talking with Coach, they use the tight end in a lot of ways. In 12 and 13 personnel, using guys to block and run routes, really a complete tight end system. I think that fits my game well," he said.
4. A Rancho Santa Margarita native, Calcaterra played football, basketball, and lacrosse growing up. He recorded 48 catches for 926 yards and nine touchdowns as a wide receiver in his junior season at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Calcaterra was named a U.S. Army All-American as a senior with 57 receptions for 958 yards and eight touchdowns.
5. Calcaterra is the youngest of three triplets who were all born prematurely, weighing just four pounds each. Each suffered from various health issues as infants but had healthy childhoods. The triplets were born in Cincinnati before the family moved to Orange County in 2002. In 2017, Calcaterra was the No. 6 tight end in the country as a four-star recruit and the No. 25 overall player in California. He chose Oklahoma over Florida and Texas A&M.
"A really good tight end, does exceptionally well in the passing game – routes, skill, the ability to win at the top of routes, get open at the second and third level versus man coverage as well as uncover versus zone. Really smart football player. Natural hands. Very polished as a route runner. Just a friend of the quarterback. We were happy to get him at that point." – Vice President of Player Personnel Andy Weidl
"As far as the tight end with Grant, just really excited about him and his ability to be able to play that F tight end and let us be in some 12 personnel. We're unique, right, we're very unique because I think we have a top-5 tight end in the NFL on our team in Dallas Goedert but this will help us a little bit with some of the 12 personnel. You know as we looked at our snaps last year we had some 13 personnel, no huddle that we did that we were able to pack in tight and run the football but also spread out wide and he's going to be able to help with that.
"So just very pleased with the direction our offense is going. Something we forget too, and I mean I think I did a little bit is that Grant was Jalen's (Hurts) tight end at Oklahoma and so they have a rapport there already. They've done it together and Jalen's thrown him some meaningful passes in some meaningful games. So super excited about where we are and where we're headed." – Head Coach Nick Sirianni