To make an NFL team as a relatively unknown player, there are going to be obstacles to overcome. The first step in doing that is establishing what those obstacles are. For the big-hitting Joe Mays, the biggest is proving that a linebacker from a small school like Division I-FCS North Dakota State can play at this level.
The 5-11, 246-pound linebacker has a compact frame and delivers punishing tackles. People are always going to question one aspect of a player's game or another, so the rookie accepts that.
"I wouldn't say (being able to hit) is my biggest asset or that I am great at it, but I am working hard and getting better," Mays said. "I just let people say what they want to say and I'll let my play speak for itself."
"It just shows that all my hard work and all my dedication that I put into this sport is working for me and the coaches believe in me," he said. "I'm going to keep on working and keep on doing everything that I've been doing."
During the first preseason game against the Steelers, Mays led the team with six tackles - five solo. What isn't noted is how Mays flipped Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed on his head.
"It felt great out there. I felt comfortable," he said. "I am just looking forward to getting better and playing next week."
During the hit on Sweed, Mays said he didn't know the ball was coming. He was just making sure Sweed did not get the ball. All he saw was the receiver in the air so he hit him in the knees and he ended up on his head.
"It was a win for me," Mays said. "I guess you can take it as an 'L' for him."
It is not all about "Headbusting" for Mays though.
"If I get a big hit, I get a big hit. But more importantly I'm just trying to make plays," the man nicknamed the Headbuster said.
On the Eagles' current 80-man roster, 13 players are from Non-Division I-BCS schools. As a member of that group, Mays wants to prove the name of the school is irrelevant.
"So many people make so much of players coming from small schools," said Mays. "It's not that big of a deal. Guys coming from D-III schools can come out here and play ball. Again, I just let them say what they are going to say and I know what I can do out there on the field. I am just out there to show it week in and week out."
Mays doesn't think most of people know what school he went to, but he doesn't care. He has to take care of business and make a football team first.