Review Intern Joseph Fontanazza weighs in on his trip to the Novacare Complex.
Jordan Matthews and I have little in common. The Vanderbilt alumnus is a world class athlete looking to be a part of one of the most explosive offensives in recent memory. Then there is me, a writer with a sub-six 40-yard dash and currently debating if I should have that fourth slice of pizza. But in the summer of 2014, we both attended our first training camp likely with the same type of early jitters.
Walking through security Aug. 4, I had the fear of denial creeping into my subconscious. “Who is this kid? Somebody get him out of here,” security personnel wondered as I almost tiptoed to avoid attention. The paranoia subsided with every passing checkpoint. I was able to receive my media pass from Eagles Public Relations Coordinator Anthony Bonagura and Public Relations Intern James McDonald. If I didn’t have to show a semblance of professionalism, I would have passed out on the spot from sheer excitement. As South Philly Review Editor Bill Gelman, fellow Intern Joe Tressa, and I walked through the entrance to the practice, I remembered why I wanted to be a writer. The future pressure of finding a job, short deadlines and interacting with multiple millionaires may be anxiety-filled, but I have an opportunity to write about sports for a living. Some people have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to go to jobs that they hate, but this is what I do. Sometimes we forget how blessed we are.
The Eagles’ field was a football junkie’s dream and a cavalcade of player interaction. To the left, giant bodies struggle for five-second supremacy. Straight ahead, defensive backs deny adversaries any notion of breathing room. To the far right, wide receivers float above earth’s surface plucking leather out of the sky from their quarterback companions. After taking in the sensory overload, I realized the same thing that held me back from a below average football career is the same thing holding me back from being an above average writer: Me, a common folk around behemoths, could not see over the players to observe the action. I spotted an unimpeded view and made a dash like Chip Kelly’s personal invite to the team depended on it… Alright, I’m getting dramatic…I briskly walked to the open view point. The wideouts were running fade routes while working on attacking balls at the highest points. Jeremy Maclin barreled through the sideline as he toe tapped for the touchdown. After Maclin, wide receivers Benn, Murphy, and Pratt all were given the opportunity to work one of the NFL’s staple routes.
The buzzer for the next activity sounded, and I had to find a new spot. Stuck in the same situation that I hastily escaped, I surveyed the surrounding area looking for a new viewpoint. Subsequently to appearing like a lost child looking for his mother, I had a vantage point on the far bleachers become available. For the first time of the day, I could see what was going on, and just in time for one-on-one drills. Oregon alum Will Murphy impressed with a catch in traffic on an out route, but Kadron Boone stole fans’ gaze through a diving catch on a deep ball. Rookie Matthews displayed his aggressive nature, as he attacked a pass over a flailing cornerback. Chip Kelly’s fast paced practice was truly a test on my writing speed as the Eagles quickly sojourned to the next task. During the Seven On Seven, the offense appeared crisp. Nick Foles connected on every pass during his first three repetitions connecting with Maclin, Matthews and McCoy while Mark Sanchez worked his short passing game connecting with multiple buttonhooks and flat routes. Foles continued his chemistry with his assortment of skill position talent finding a corner route to Maclin flaunting exquisite ball placement to his number one wide out. Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley also was given a chance to impress during a Two Minute Drill situation. He found Matthews then Darren Sproles to get into scoring position but on a forth down Barkley and Zach Ertz were unable to connect. Ertz made an extravagant effort over stretching for the ball with one hand but because he was unable to stay inbounds the pass was ruled incomplete. With practice going to a close with a couple more drills, I looked back on this whole experience.
Going to my first training camp practice was a crazy experience that left me in awe. I sat close to Eagles’ writer Les Bowen, while I struggled to get out a word just listening to him talk to some of his colleagues was an education in itself. I tried to stay on the line of professionalism being this close to players and writers that I admire truly changed my prospective on the future. I’m looking forward to the next time I make a venture to the Novacare Complex now that I somewhat-kind of-almost know what I’m doing.