Growing up, Matt Tobin was a big kid in a small town.
Tobin was born in Worthington, Iowa, a city with a population of 401 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Population changes in a city like Worthington are a little more noticeable than those in Philadelphia.
Tobin went to high school at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville, a 10-minute car ride across route 20 from Worthington. Dyersville is home to the filming site of the famous baseball movie Field of Dreams, probably the most notoriety the slightly larger city – population 4,056 – will ever see.
The 6-6, 290-pound lineman attended college at – you guessed it – the University of Iowa, which was a gaudy 80-minute drive from Beckman Catholic. Tobin made the team as a walk-on, and went undrafted out of college.
But this Sunday, the Iowa boy is coming for the bright lights of California. Tobin is expected to take the field at Levi's Stadium in San Francisco, just over 2,000 miles from Worthington, at left guard for the Eagles. It would be his first career start in the NFL.
He won't have any family in the stands, like teammate and California native tight end Zach Ertz likely will.
"My parents are going to have a few people over to watch the game," Tobin explained. Worthington keeps its affairs small.
Tobin, in his second season with the Eagles, is grateful to have found this kind of opportunity with any NFL team. He didn't mind not seeing much playing time as a backup last season; he said he takes his own approach to how the weeks played out.
"You just go hard during the week," Tobin said. "Last year when I was here, I kind of made Wednesday, when we had full pads, I tried to make that my game day."
He was used to waiting. After earning second-team all-state honors as a senior in high school, Tobin walked on to the Hawkeyes in his freshman year, 2008, which he subsequently redshirted. In 2009, he saw no game action. In 2010, he saw sparing action in four games, listed as the team's backup left tackle, before becoming a regular on Iowa's offensive line in his final two seasons.
"At Iowa I was a walk-on, so I had three years of watching everybody do it, too," Tobin explained, when asked how he handles waiting instead of playing. "I've been in that position."
Despite going undrafted in 2013, Tobin said he liked the way the Eagles felt as a fit for his playing style, and he liked the way the organization felt about him.
"My agent and I looked at the roster and thought it was a doable to make the team," Tobin said, "and it seemed like [offensive line] Coach [Jeff] Stoutland liked me a lot, a lot more than a lot of other coaches I talked to, and we thought this would be the best opportunity to make it work.
"He called me a few different times and we talked a lot, got to know each other, stuff like that."
During one of those calls, Stoutland tried to get a read on what kind of experience Tobin was looking for in a professional setting, to Tobin's amusement.
"He asked me if I liked a coach that got after you, and I said yeah, I've experienced that," Tobin said with a laugh.
With Sunday afternoon just around the corner now, Tobin is excited for what could be the first start of his career, and he's starting off with a bang, going up against an excellent defensive front in San Francisco.
"They've got a very strong front seven on the defensive side of the ball there," Tobin admitted. "Justin Smith is strong, he's going to be a good challenge for me, and I'm excited to get after him."