By Dave Spadaro
OK, so understand how Jake Elliott felt: He just had the greatest moment in his professional life, and he had no idea where he was. Well, he knew where he was: at Lincoln Financial Field, seconds removed from a life-best, and Eagles franchise-record, 61-yard field goal at the buzzer to beat the Giants 27–24, and Jake Elliott was a spinning top.
“It was like being in a daze,” Elliott said.
It was like being part of history, although Elliott had, or now has, a real sense of what it all means.
See, Elliott is a newbie to the Culture of The Philadelphia Eagles, and while his field goal Sunday two weeks into his Eagles career doesn’t necessarily rank among the top moments in Eagles history around here — the Miracles of the Meadowlands, the 4th-and-26, the NFC championship game moments — it was something special.
And it was remarkably special for a kid, age 22, who was a member of the Bengals’ practice squad when Eagles placekicker Caleb Sturgis suffered a hip injury in the opening-day win over Washington and said “yes” to the Eagles’ invitation to join the 53-man active roster.
“I just tried to go out there and focus on my job and make the best contact I could make on the football,” said the 5-foot-9, 167-pound Elliott, who is as unassuming as unassuming can be for an NFL player. “I looked up, and it had a chance, and I just was hoping it would go through. I couldn’t even think.”
Elliott then, in the hours to follow, did the media tour. Every television station wanted to hear Elliott’s story of having a terrific career at Memphis, and how he was a fifth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals last spring and how he lost the competition to win the job and was plucked off the Bengals’ practice squad when Sturgis was injured and how he got to this point.
“Crazy trip,” he said. “I just have to focus on the moment.”
The moment lasts for a couple of days in the NFL, and that’s it. By the time Sunday rolls around and the Eagles are in Los Angeles playing against the Chargers and you are watching on television, you’re going to give Elliott exactly zero slack. When he lines up for his next field goal, he has to make it. In the NFL, you are only as good as your last play.
Elliott knows to live in the moment. He just had a hard time figuring out a moment on Sunday that he had never before created. A game-winning kick from 61 yards away? For a rookie in his first home game? That just doesn’t happen.
“I’m trying not to think about it,” Elliott said.
This is what makes the NFL so great. To win games in the NFL, entire rosters have to shine. As the Eagles have gone 2–1 early in this 2017 season, they’ve gotten key contributions from all three phases of the game. In Los Angeles, an 0–3 Chargers team is playing for its season. This won’t be easy.
And by the time Elliott makes his first kick, his 15 minutes of fame will be over. To last in the NFL, Elliott will have to deliver every week. He doesn’t want the high point of his career to have happened two weeks into a contract.
“I want to be around in the NFL for a long time,” Elliott said. “I don’t want to look past these moments. I want to have many more of them.”