In just a short time, JJ Arcega-Whiteside has impressed his teammates with his work ethic, his intelligence and -- just the other day -- his linguistic acumen. The guy is pretty smart.
When he thoroughly understands the Eagles playbook, he will then be fluent in four languages. The second-round rookie already speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and English.
“I did an interview in Spanish the other day and my teammates were walking by me all wide-eyed, like that’s insane,” said Arcega-Whiteside, who majored in international relations at Stanford. “But for me, that’s normal. Having that skill set and to be able to use it is awesome. I can talk to more people.”
The pursuit of the language and complexity of Doug Pederson’s offense has been Arcega-Whiteside’s focus since the Eagles selected him with the 57th pick in April. His mother and father were professional basketball players in Europe (mom Valorie is the greatest player in Appalachian State history) and he has leaned on them throughout this learning process.
“My parents put things in perspective,” said Arcega-Whiteside. “The good times. The bad times. They tell it to me like it is and not just what I just want to hear. They’re just a phone call away. I can get advice from them as professional athletes instead of just as parents.”
The wide receivers room at the Eagles NovaCare complex is pretty crowded these days. Arcega-Whiteside, who was tied for third in the nation with 14 touchdowns last season, is among those fighting for playing time behind veterans Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor.
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Some rookies might get discouraged or worse (combative) with the lack of regular first-team reps, especially those drafted so relatively high. His position coach in college, who has been around youngsters more than half his life, would be stunned if that were to happen with his former pupil here.
“He’ll study what they do, watch everything.” said Stanford wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. “He doesn’t have a big head. He’ll be like a fly on the wall around them. It’ll be good to have those older guys around. He’ll learn from DeSean, the other receivers, and Zach Ertz and all of them.”
Arcega-Whiteside’s presence already is being noticed around the region. He was in for 29 of 57 offensive snaps in his preseason debut last week against Tennessee, second among Eagles receivers after Charles Johnson.
“I’m starting to get recognized somewhat, which is awesome because it was never like that for me. Ever. Not even at Stanford,” said the 6-foot-2, 225-pound wide receiver with the wide smile and movie-star looks. “Stanford values academics over sports. Everybody there is special. Here, everybody loves the Eagles and they know everything about this team.”
Kennedy has been an assistant at 11 different stops in the last 30 years. He was at Texas in 2005 when the Longhorns beat USC in a championship game for the ages, and was a graduate assistant at Penn State in 1992. “We had Ki-Jana Carter on the scout team,” he said with a laugh.
“Ultimately, with JJ, it’s about the team,” Kennedy said. “Whether it’s this year or next year, sooner or later I have no doubt that he’ll be a leader and a real impact guy for them.”