The seconds felt like minutes. The minutes, like days. In the hours leading to Tuesday's 4 PM NFL-mandated roster cutdown, Eagles players waited in the team hotel.
Unsure of what would happen next.
Sweating out the silence.
"Tuesday by far the most stressful day I've ever been a part of since I've been alive," said offensive lineman Josh Sills, one of three undrafted rookies to make the 53-man roster. "Just sitting around and texting back and forth with my agent. I'm there, all alone, and every time my phone would vibrate or ring, I'd be like, 'Ahhhh, here we go.' I didn't want to pick it up or look at it.
"Then 4 o'clock came and I got the call that I made the 53. I was ecstatic, over the moon. Every reaction possible you can imagine, that's how I felt. I jumped around, I yelled and screamed, and then I didn't know what to do. It was a dream come true. I talked to my parents on FaceTime ... it was incredible. I loved every second of it, but at the same time, it was the most stressful day I've been a part of."
For the draft picks like Jordan Davis, Tuesday wasn't the same. Davis was the team's first-round draft pick and he knew he made The First 53. But for Sills and safety Reed Blankenship and cornerback Josh Jobe, three undrafted rookies who are still here and who are part of the eight-player 2022 Rookie Class, waiting to find out their football fate was stressful. And that's understating it.
"I heard nothing. I'm sitting in my hotel room at 4 o'clock like, 'Man, what's going on?' It was the longest day ever," Blankenship said. "But once it hit 4 and they released the roster, I saw my name and I was so proud of myself. It's kind of hard to explain. I made it, but there's still the unwritten. I have to prove myself every day to stay here. That's the reality. This is far from over. It's a long journey and I'm ready for it."
Jobe was a starter at Alabama and he played with and against the best of the best. Blankenship was a five-year starter and a three-year captain at Middle Tennessee State. Sills played for five seasons at West Virginia and Oklahoma. All three different players and all three different stories.
But each of them faced the same daily challenges once the Eagles signed them in the post-2022 NFL Draft frenzy. There just isn't any room for letdown with such a narrow margin for error. All three went about their business and impressed the coaching staff and all three are here and looking to stay and contribute and make themselves the best they can be. It helped in all three cases that the veterans on this team reached out and lent a helping hand to bring them along. And it helped that they came in with chips on their shoulders, hunkered down, and didn't look up from their playbooks when they were away from the NovaCare Complex.
"I stayed positive and had faith in myself," Jobe said. "I knew it would be a lot of hard work and that I had to be dedicated to the game. Alabama helped me a lot in preparing me for the NFL, and then it was on me and listening and learning from everybody. I play with great effort and I'm physical and I can play the ball. I can play multiple positions. There's a standard that you have to reach here and I know that standard. That's how I approach every day.
"Making it on Tuesday and having Jonathan Gannon call me was a great feeling. The first person I called was my dad (Reggie Donaldson). It was amazing. My pops is the one who trained me and helped me when I was younger. I came to Philadelphia knowing that 36 cornerbacks had been drafted, so I had that chip on my shoulder. It was just about working hard every day and listening to the vets."
There hasn't yet been a time when the three players have taken a deep breath and said to anyone who would listen, "I'VE MADE IT!!!" They have been here long enough to see players come and go and they understand that this is a business, so there is more work to be done.
There is always more work to be done.
"I'm not satisfied, not at all," Blankenship said. "I need to improve every phase of my game. There is a lot of stress here and when I feel that, I go to my happy place, whether that's calling up my family or my friends. This is something I've been dreaming about my whole life. I'm going to have fun with it and not let the stress consume my life. It's probably 80 percent mental at this level, so you can always study more and learn more.
"Effort-wise, I'm always going to put it on the line and if the coaches aren't noticing that, then I'm not going hard enough. Football means everything to me. It's all I've ever known. I want to play this game and have fun doing it for as long as possible. I'm going to do whatever I can, whatever it takes, and go until they tell me to leave."
The Eagles announced the initial 53-man roster after Tuesday's 4 PM final cutdown.