Brett Toth couldn’t wait to return to the football field for the first time in 18 months. The former West Point offensive tackle signed with the Eagles on Friday and went through his first practice on Sunday.
“The biggest way to learn to swim is to get in the water,” Toth said in an interview at his locker with the media before participating in his first practice on Sunday.
A 2018 graduate of West Point, Toth signed a three-year contract on Friday with the Eagles.
In June, a new policy by the Trump administration now allows service academy graduates to apply for a waiver, if they have a chance to play professionally. They can make up the service time when they aren’t participating in professional sports.
That reversed a 2017 decision by former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who had said military academy graduates would have to serve at least two years of their five-year service obligation before turning professional.
“First and foremost, it couldn’t have been done without President Trump making the initiative to send athletes to professional sports,” Toth said. “Again, it is going to be a huge advertising tool for the Army and that is what I am here for, kind of representing West Point and Army as a whole.”
Toth hasn’t played football since participating in the Senior Bowl in January of 2018. He appeared in 31 games for Army, including a classic 31-28 overtime win over visiting Temple his senior year.
Most recently, Toth had been stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. He said his most recent task was as serving as one of the new platoon leaders for basic training.
When Toth doesn’t have football commitment, he said he will continue his service time, working with Temple and its ROTC program.
It seems likely that he will be placed on the practice squad this season.
The 6-foot-6 Toth weighs 290 pounds and says he would like to get up to 315 as quickly as possible. He was told he would be looked at as a tackle, although Toth could also play guard, according to coach Doug Pederson.
“He’s athletic enough, he’s smart,” Pederson said. “We worked him out a couple weeks ago. I really think that he's a guy we can do that with.”
Toth said he worked out for the Eagles about two weeks ago. When asked what Toth could bring to the team this late in the preseason, Pederson said, “Another opportunity there at tackle and guard just to kind of see where he’s at. Another young, talented guy.”
The presence of offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who has a great reputation for developing linemen, was one of the key factors, Toth said in coming to the Eagles.
Another factor was the offensive line itself.
“Everybody knows how deep the entire offensive line is and how deep each position is,” Toth said. “This is a group of guys you want to learn under.”
There will be plenty to learn according to fourth-year guard Isaac Seumalo.
“I would be lying if I said it is easy, it is hard man,” said Seumalo, who started nine games at left guard last season. “Nothing about this game is easy and he is behind the eight ball, but he seems like a good dude. I talked to him a couple of times, he has that military background so there is no doubt in my mind that he will learn quickly.”
Toth said the first priority will be to get in football shape as quickly as possible and says the support systems provided by the Eagles will help him reach that goal.