Now the nation knows what we've known since Jon Dorenbos started with the Eagles in the 2006 season: He isn't going to be fazed by being in the spotlight and he sure is going to make it fun to watch what he does.
We've seen Dorenbos as the long-time long snapper, one of the best in franchise history and one of the best in the NFL in his seasons, with two Pro Bowls on his résumé. He's been durable and reliable and spot on in his performance. And during the years we've gotten to know the Dorenbos story – how he took to magic as a child after his father murdered his mother when Jon was 12 years old, how he fudged his way into a football scholarship at the University of Texas-El Paso and how he had his chance in the NFL and has done nothing but great things in a career that is about to enter season No. 14. Dorenbos has played in 149 consecutive games as an Eagle, so if he makes the team and stays healthy all year, he will become the franchise leader in consecutive games played in Game 14 when the Eagles play at Baltimore on December 18.
What Dorenbos did a few weeks ago, when he appeared on America's Got Talent on NBC and wowed the panel of judges, left the crowd slack-jawed and opened eyes across the country for the vast television audience, transcended his on-field excellence, his deep-rooted community involvement in Philadelphia and the hundreds of times he's taken the handy-dandy pack of cards out of his ever-present backpack and entertained crowds with an impromptu magic show.
"It was a great time and it is something that just did kind of happen," Dorenbos said. "I had a chance to audition and I took it. We did it in the offseason, back in March (even though it aired in late June), and it was fun. I've been performing a long time. I've been in theaters, I was able to perform at an arena with 10,000 people, but I've never performed in that environment where you perform for four judges and you really just want to get them on your side. For me, that was kind of a really cool challenge."
Dorenbos performs again on a more local, and more public, level on Sunday at the Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa in Atlantic City in “Comedy For a Cause,” an event scheduled to take place at The Music Box in order to raise money for children with disabilities who attend the Atlantic County Special Services School District. Popular comedian Craig Shoemaker headlines the show and Dorenbos will do his thing on stage in front of a crowd that will no doubt wonder how in the world he pulled off the tricks.
The bright lights of the national television world didn't faze Dorenbos in the least on America's Got Talent. He's obviously been in the pressure cooker during his football career and his job lends itself to responding to pressure: long snappers just don't make mistakes. If they do, they're gone.
So when Dorenbos was called to the stage he drew from a calm, cool and collected reservoir of experiences. In fact, he was so "chill," that some of the other performers and those associated with AGT wondered if he was feeling on his game.
"People said, 'Did you just fall asleep? You're on in, like, two minutes.' I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah, it's all good.' I'm kind of one of those guys who keeps the heart rate down," Dorenbos said. "Myself and David Akers (former great Eagles placekicker) for years would take a nap right before the game and just kind of chill out and settle the nerves. For me it was no different. I've been shuffling cards since I was 12 years old. You kind of just get out of the way of your own body and let it do what it does."
The reaction from friends, family and associates was, of course, huge. Dorenbos estimates that he received 500 texts, and he is still responding to many of them. He made it through the first round of America's Got Talent and he says he will be on the show again in the very near future (check the listings and stay tuned!)
Beyond that? Training Camp begins for the Eagles later this month – the first full-team practice is on July 28 – and Dorenbos is gearing up to again be a key piece for Dave Fipp's special teams unit.
"I'm not even guaranteed to be on the roster and I've approached every year the same. I do what I have to do to make the roster and contribute in any way they need," Dorenbos said. "I'm not thinking about any records. I'm not in it for the records. If it happens this year, then it will be a tremendous honor. I'm in this to earn the respect of my teammates and coaches and my opponents and everyone in our building that I showed up every day as a true pro and I did my job the best I could. To me, that's what it is all about."
The football part of Dorenbos' life cranks up soon. He is more than a long snapper, as we all know through the years of spending time with him and learning his remarkable story. The rest of the country had its first peek, with another come soon, as Dorenbos builds his platform and looks beyond the boundaries of the football field and the NFL.
"To hear from the people who made such a difference in my life and who were there for me when I needed them, it's been cool and rewarding," he said. "I had fun with AGT and I really enjoyed the experience. It just comes naturally to me. I enjoy that moment, just like I enjoy every part of my life. It hasn't always been that way, so I'm blessed and grateful to be in this position."