UPDATE: The Eagles claimed guard Kyle DeVan off waivers from the Colts on Sunday afternoon. Cedric Thornton was released to make room for DeVan on the 53-man roster.
This time, there was no party. Rookie defensive tackle Cedric Thornton went about his normal routine Saturday, getting his haircut, going to the mall and trying not to focus on the Eagles' looming roster cutdown. That approach was far different than the one he and his family took last April, when the Southern Arkansas product threw a draft party, only for his name to go uncalled in seven rounds of the NFL Draft.
Like last April, Thornton didn't receive a call from the Eagles on Saturday. But this time, that silence was gold as Thornton earned a spot on the team's initial 53-man roster following a strong preseason. Thornton is one of five defensive tackles on the current roster and he was chosen, surprisingly to some, over veterans Anthony Hargrove and Derek Landri.
"It means that they've seen that I have a lot of potential as a rookie," Thornton said, adding that was thrilled when the news came down. "They're looking for me to step up and do something that they know that I can do and they trust me a lot. I'm ready to work my tail off for (head coach) Andy Reid, (general manager Howie Roseman) and (defensive line) coach (Jim) Washburn."
Of the 11 rookies on the Eagles roster, only Thornton and punter Chas Henry were not drafted by the team last April. Though Thornton expected the Eagles to call his name all along.
"I thought I was actually going to get drafted by the Eagles in the third or fourth round," said Thornton. "I don't know, my heart was always set on the Eagles. I talked to coach Washburn the day of the lockout, he said he really wanted me to come down here.
"Thirteen or 14 other teams tried to call me and I told them I was already dedicated to Philly and my heart was always set on Philly."
Washburn has been one of the keys to Thornton's rise with the Eagles, the defensive tackle said. Thornton initially chose to join the Eagles largely because of Washburn and, throughout training camp and the preseason, Washburn rewarded Thornton by pushing him to the limit.
"He's somebody that you love to play for," said Thornton. "He's going to push you to every potential that you have in you and then he's going to give you a hard time because he knows that there's always more to come out of you. He's someone that you want to put your body on the line for, sacrifice your body to make plays ... and you know that he always has your back too."
Thornton, 6-4, 309, also drew inspiration from a couple of his teammates. Defensive end Phillip Hunt, another long shot, and Thornton became fast friends as they bonded over their shared goal of earning a roster spot. Thornton also looked to fellow defensive tackle Antonio Dixon, who also made the Eagles as an undrafted rookie, signed by the team after Dixon was cut by the Washington Redskins.
"He sets an example," said Thornton. "Me and Antonio's relationship is real close, we bond on and off the field. He's a guy that I actually looked up to coming here because he told me his story that he's undrafted and ... it motivated me."
For now, Thornton isn't resting easy as he knows there will surely be roster moves to come. But that uneasiness doesn't take away from what he's accomplished since arriving at Lehigh for his first training camp.
"I know anything can change at any moment," said Thornton. "I just know that they chose me for a reason, and the reason is that I go hard in practice every day, I never take a day off.
"As long as I'm doing what I'm doing, I'll always have positive production. As long as I can practice and go hard, I'll be elevating my skills."
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