How many times do you have to overcome the odds and the naysayers and the laws of NFL undrafted rookies before you are viewed as what you are? Since his high school days at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia when Olamide Zaccheaus dreamed large, he has instead too many times heard the opposite.
"So much of, 'You're too small,' 'You're not fast enough,' stuff like that," Zaccheaus says. "All my life. Every stage of my life. It's always motivated me and, actually, it's probably been good for me. If you're hungry enough and you do things the right way, there is a place for you in this league if you are talented enough to compete. I'm confident in what I can do. I know I add value to a team. There is an overarching ignorance about my career and my abilities.
"There are so many reasons I've been in this league going on five years now. I would say the main thing is being a sponge. I've always been able to learn fast. When I went to Atlanta (as a rookie free agent out of Virginia in 2019), it was a stacked receiver room – Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Russell Cage, Justin Hardy, and a bunch of other guys – and I learned from all of those guys. Having those examples right there in front of my face every day, I was able to learn things so quick about how to be a receiver in the NFL. That helped me so much. Then, taking advantage of your opportunities when they present themselves. Sometimes, they come slim and they are very few."
Having that incredibly small margin for error in '19 has served Zaccheaus well throughout his career. He made that Falcons roster and played in 10 games with three receptions – the first catch of his NFL career was a 93-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Ryan – and has improved his numbers since – 20 receptions in 2020, 31 in 2021, and then 40 in 2022 – proving to coaches he could play in the slot as well as an outside receiver at 5-8 and 193 pounds. He did that.
Now he's an Eagle, and the opportunity to add to a well-rounded and potent offense is there after signing a one-year deal in free agency. Zaccheaus is part of a wide receiver room that includes A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins. Who in the world knows how many chances Zaccheaus – he's "Oh Zee" inside the NovaCare Complex – will have in the offense?
"Doesn't matter," he said. "I am here to contribute in any way I can – on offense, special teams, whatever. My big thing is, and the way I wanted to stand out in Atlanta when I was establishing myself is that I wanted to be the guy that when you're watching film I finished every play. No matter what. I attacked it like that and it worked out for me. That's still the way I am.
"The way my career has gone is that it never goes exactly the way I envisioned it, but it always ends up working out. Being that underdog has always been a part of my journey, my story. It will always be there for me. I thrive in that environment. I know nothing will ever be given to me."
Zaccheaus says he "enjoys the process of getting better," and that's the whole Eagles daily message and so this is a great place to be for a player who can contribute in a lot of ways to an offense that can attack teams in numerous ways. He's a reliable player in every way who plays way stronger than you would think a 5-8 receiver would be, so the Eagles know that he's going to be there in the running game, he's going to gain yards after the catch, and he's going to be able to line up at multiple receiver positions.
Maybe "Oh Zee" will be in the background just a bit in this galaxy of offensive stars and his impact certainly could be under the radar. That's all fine. That's great, really. He's here to have a role, to make a difference. And as we've learned, every little bit of difference adds up to a lot of victories in the course of a season.
"Every rep matters and I think that's something you have to appreciate because when you're in the position I'm in, you have to make the most of every chance you get," Zaccheaus said. "Every day I walk in here and it's great. I'm in the NFL. I'm in Philadelphia, my hometown. I'm 20 minutes from my mom (Yimbra) and I visit her often. There are a lot of ups and down in the NFL and you have to embrace the moment.
"I was talking about this with Dre (D'Andre Swift, Eagles running back and Zaccheaus' teammate at St. Joe's Prep) that everything is happening the way it should. We talked about this in high school and here we are, so you have to cherish every day of the experience. That's what I'm doing. I love every minute of this."