At no time was Jack Stoll feeling comfortable in his quest to make the Eagles' 53-man roster. Undrafted from Nebraska, Stoll joined a loaded tight end room with the sole intent of focusing on himself and not stepping back and thinking, "How in the world am I going to make this team?" It was all about Stoll being the best player he could be.
"I'm one of these guys, I try not to be complacent," said Stoll, now a member of the 53 after making the long shot journey of going from the after-draft neighborhood of players to the active roster. "I'm just trying to be the best version of myself that I can be. I'm just going out there every day trying to get better, making sure I'm tightening up my game, connecting with everyone, competing. Listen, I've always had the confidence that I'm an NFL-caliber tight end and it was awesome being able to go out there and prove it."
He sure did prove it on a daily basis, showing the coaching staff an all-around game that never wavered through the course of Training Camp, the joint practices with the Patriots and the Jets, and the preseason schedule. In a tight ends room led by Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, bolstered by the steady veteran presence of Richard Rodgers, and jolted – in a very good way – by the rapid-fast emergence of quarterback-turned-tight end Tyree Jackson, Stoll did his work without much fanfare.
The Eagles certainly noticed.
"We had draftable grades on Jack and he was somebody we were considering taking to make sure we got him on this football team," Howie Roseman said. "When you talk about Jack, really all the intangibles – really tough, he has tools in his body. The guy is really smart, really picks things up quickly, and then you look at it and you see that their offense (Nebraska's) didn't feature the tight end last year but when you saw him run routes and the athletic ability he has in his body, he's a 4.6 guy (in the 40-yard dash) as a tight end. He can change direction.
"The point-of-attack stuff, there was a play against the Jets in the preseason when we're in the high red zone and he comes off the ball and he's just overpowering guys. They're hard to find, these combo guys. We wanted to keep him around. Obviously, our first two guys (Ertz and Goedert) are special, special players and special people, but having a guy like this who really embraces the dirty work, who wants to play on special teams, but he's not limited. We're really excited about him."
Stoll's attention to detail paid off as he learned, with great assistance from Tight Ends Coach Jason Michael and even Head Coach Nick Sirianni, about the nuances of the position – the perfection needed to run a route, the use of leverage in creating separation, and the blocking phase of the game, footwork. The veterans in the room – Ertz and Goedert and Rodgers – certainly were helpful with their answers to Stoll's questions and helped him along the way. On his side, Stoll bore down and kept his performance level high throughout the summer. His play at tight end was strong throughout, as was his performance on special teams. That's 4.6 speed allowed Stoll to win down the field chasing kicks, and that was important.
"When you're in a room with Zach and Dallas and a bunch of other guys, it's an awesome opportunity to learn. And being the undrafted guy, you come to the reality that you're not going to walk in and be a starter Day 1," Stoll said. "Being able to learn from guys like that and being in an opportunity in a city like this is really kind of what drew me. Their pitch was, 'You'll be able to come here and learn and we will give you an opportunity to show what you have.' They didn't guarantee anything. I was having a chip on my shoulder (thinking) nothing should be given to you and obviously being the undrafted guy that's how it works. I'm excited to be here.
"I took a look at the depth chart and it was one of those deals where when I was looking at it I realized I can learn from some great guys and I can come in, step in and compete, and most importantly get an opportunity to play in these preseason games. That was what ended up happening here in Philadelphia. My goal was always to make the team and I ended up doing it. I'm lucky to have a great group of guys in there that I've been able to learn with and get to know over the past couple of weeks here and I'm looking forward to that time being extended.
"I couldn't be more grateful for those guys and how much they've helped me develop."
Stoll was one of nine rookies to make the initial 53-man roster, including eight draft picks. The odds are never in favor of a player who isn't drafted to make the team. Stoll smashed the odds. He was labeled, unfairly as it turned out, as a "blocking" tight end when his time at Nebraska was finished. There is a whole lot more to Stoll's game and there is more to come.
He promises to never let his guard down.
"If I could end up running routes like Zach does here in a couple of years, I think I'd be an unbelievable receiving tight end," Stoll said. "I know coming out I was known as a blocking guy. I'm out here trying to prove everybody wrong – that I can catch the ball, I can block, that I can do everything like that – that I'm a complete tight end who can do it all. That's exactly what I'm trying to be."