The NFL Draft is sort of an abstraction to most football fans.
Aside from a glorified few — the Leonard Fournettes, Christian McCaffreys and Deshaun Watsons — most of the 253 players taken in each year’s extravaganza are reduced to names, 40-yard-dash times and highlight reels.
The realization of a lifelong dream is reduced to a three-day, made-for-TV special and oftentimes the best storylines are lost as the offseason changes the conversation to the game of football and away from the players and their struggle and sacrifice.
When Eagles rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas reports to minicamps later this month, he’ll be wearing midnight green pads, but he’ll be carrying a much heavier weight than that of his uniform and equipment.
“When you have to walk to McDonald’s in the snow and you order five things and you eat two of them at 12 o’clock and you save the other two dollar-menu things for later on in the day,” Douglas said not long after being selected 99th overall Friday night. “I think that was one of my craziest days.”
Douglas grew up with almost no football ambition — which is good because he had almost no football opportunity. His grades were lackluster and his financial situation was grim. But a strong showing on his SATs and the grit that would later help him fight for 50-50 balls as a cornerback helped him lift himself up.
“Out of high school, I didn’t even think about college and didn’t think about going to college,” the defensive back, who spent his childhood in East Orange New Jersey, said. “My high school coach told me, ‘Go there, make a name for yourself, you can do it.’
And in junior college I struggled: sleeping on the floor and not having any money to eat. I thought about leaving, but my faith grew stronger and I wound up staying.”
For Douglas, who at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds has the natural size for a cornerback that coaches clamor for, football wasn’t a viable option for his future until fairly recently.
“I wanted to play football, but I just knew I couldn’t live like that by playing it,” he said. “Honestly, after I started getting scholarship [offers] in junior college, and then recently, this year, after having a good year, I thought the NFL could be a place where I belong.”
The third round pick is expected to sign a bonus netting him over $700,000. He’ll be a success overnight, the minute he inks his $3 million-plus contract. The Eagles front office has given the 21-year-old from West Virginia via Nassau Community College glowing reviews — and Eagles fans are optimistic he’ll make an instant impact on the team’s recently disastrous secondary.
“[He has] tremendous ball skills and length,” Eagles VP of Football Operations Howie Roseman said. “He’s someone who was really on our radar for a long time and had a really good process, including the Senior Bowl.”