There are so many hopes and dreams crowded into the Eagles' locker room at the NovaCare Complex, they had to bring in extra lockers to hold them all.

The middle of the room is lined with the temporary cubicles, most of them housing young men whose employment as professional football players is also temporary.

Some will survive, though. They will get through the camp for rookies and selected veterans this week, and will make it to the other minicamps that pock the empty schedule until training camp arrives in July. The lucky ones will get that far, too.

Getting to September and a permanent locker that won't be wheeled into storage is another matter. Someone will beat the odds, though. It happens every year. This week, the hopefuls wedge into their little lockers and wonder if it could actually be them.

Terrell Golden, an undrafted rookie receiver from Penn State, watches the comings and goings from the middle of the room. He dresses under a nameplate that reads Marvin Golden, which is his given name, but he has always used his middle name. Undrafted free agents, particularly ones as nice as Golden, do not point out such mistakes to the organization. A locker in an NFL complex is a good thing to have, regardless.

"It's been a lot of learning," Golden said of the switch from college to the pros. "The terminology is different, and it's such a complex offense compared to what we ran at Penn State. I'm just trying to learn on the fly."

Golden is a solid 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and believes he would best fit in as a slot receiver or perhaps an extra tight end. He prides himself on downfield blocking, and understands that speed is not his prime selling point

"I'm not the fastest but I'm far from the slowest," he said. "It's a good fit with my size. I think I can be really effective in the slot, but I'm just hoping to do whatever. When we put on some pads, I'll really be able to show my work in the blocking game."

Penn State was a good experience for Golden, who caught 30 passes, including three touchdowns, as a senior. He was there as the team went from being pretty bad to being very respectable once again. If not for Michigan's last-minute drive to a win in 2005, Golden might well have been on a national championship team.

Where Golden sits now, he is four feet from the locker of Jason Avant, whose tippy-toe reception on that final drive kept the Wolverines going. Right next to Golden, in his own tiny locker, is former Ohio State receiver Bam Childress.

"I hear about it a little bit," Golden said, with a sigh. "Jason swears that was a catch. I've got to find the picture. He was clearly out of bounds."

"It's just bitterness," Avant said, laughing. "They've got to get over it. It was definitely a catch, but when you just miss the national championship, I guess you have to argue about something to make you feel better."

Golden had a "rocky" relationship with coach Joe Paterno at first, but they became friends, someone the receiver felt comfortable talking to if he needed to sort something out. Paterno didn't get Golden's name right, either. The coach called him t-AIR-ull rather than turr-ELL for five years. Golden had to let that one slide, too.

"I know what people say about him, but he's still sharp. He's definitely on top of things," Golden said. "If you mess up, he's right in your face."

At the next level, the players in the rookie camps, particularly the undrafted free agents, know that things work differently. If you mess up, you find another means of employment. Even if you don't mess up, that is usually the case.

The Eagles had five true wide receivers last season - Kevin Curtis, Reggie Brown, Avant, Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis. All five are still on the roster, and the team spent a second-round pick on receiver/returner DeSean Jackson. Are there really any jobs for the guys in the little lockers to win? They hope so, they really do. Golden, Childress, Jamal Jones, Frantz Hardy, Shaheer McBride, Michael Gasperson. All these unfamiliar names - some of which are even correct - their owners all hope so.

Bill Sampy, another wide receiver, had his hopes driven off the field on a cart midway through yesterday's practice. He collided with a defender going for a pass and he injured his left ankle. Out there getting a look from the coaches one minute, gone the next. Maybe coming back, maybe not. While Sampy was treated, the coaches and the rest of the team merely turned their backs and trotted to the adjacent field to continue practice.

Life is like that in the NFL in May. The conditions are cramped and the opportunities are limited and the odds are not good. There is no place they would rather be, though.

"Hey, man. I want to be in this room August 31st," Golden said.

This week, more than any, he's not alone.

Contact columnist Bob Ford
at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com.
Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.