At first glance, rookie free agent Pat Simonds may seem larger than life at 6-5, 229 pounds.
The students at Sidney (N.Y.) High School probably thought so too. Simonds lettered in four sports - excelling at football and baseball. However, when college recruiting time came around, Pat was a very small blip on the radar. He chose to play for Colgate University, a school of 2,800 students and the only one to offer him a scholarship.
"Some bigger schools were interested in the beginning, fell off at the end. Colgate stuck with me from the beginning to the end and that's why I picked them," Simonds said.
Just like in high school, Simonds excelled at Colgate. With 2,797 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns in his Raiders career, Simonds proved his worth to all the colleges that had overlooked him. But even with all of his success, playing professional football never actually seemed like a realistic possibility.
"Up until junior year, even senior year, I still was like, 'Yeah, you know, this is still a dream,'" Simonds said.
And just like in high school, draft weekend came and went and Simonds was again passed over by the big guys.
Simonds signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent. It's not uncommon for a rookie free agent to stick in Philadelphia, just look at current players like Quintin Mikell and Jamaal Jackson. The mental toughness that Simonds needs to compete at this level was harnessed while at Colgate, even though it's not known as a football powerhouse.
"You have to have a different level of competitiveness and desire to play in that (Patriot) league because you don't get the best facilities, and you don't get as many fans as some of the bigger schools," Simonds said. "You have to have a different type of dedication."
Making the challenge a little tougher for Simonds is that the Eagles worked him in with the tight ends at this past week's Rookie and Selected Vet OTAs.
"They want me to get more reps inside, so I can get over the ball, get a bigger body in there," Simonds said. "If it gives me a better opportunity to play, then I'll do it. We'll see what the coaches want to do."
While the shift from a smaller school to the NFL might be dramatic for some, the fact that Simonds played in 40 games (34 starts) over the last four years.
"It's still football, no matter where you play it," Simonds said. "As long as I'm going as hard as I can every play, then I can make the breaks and I can catch the football."
Whether it's at wide receiver or at tight end, Simonds will have to work hard to make a good impression on the coaches with the amount of talent at both positions. Simonds has been overlooked before. Let's see if he's up to the challenge again.
-- Posted by Alec Lorraine, 10:00 a.m., May 30