Jason Peters and Eugene Bright have something in common.
So do Quintin Mikell and Reshard Langford.
Peters and Mikell are familiar names to Eagles fans, but once they were just like Bright and Langford, a couple of undrafted rookies who will report for the start of training camp tomorrow at Lehigh University.
"You feel like you're a second-rate guy and you wonder if you're being given the same shot as everybody else," Mikell said when asked about the path of an undrafted rookie. "It's tough at times and you get discouraged, but you always have to believe in yourself and, if you're given a shot, you have to take advantage."
Plenty of undrafted rookies have shown up at Lehigh and stuck around after the final cuts during coach Andy Reid's tenure as the head coach.
Mikell, entering his seventh season with the team and his third as the starting strong safety, was one of three starters last season who signed with the Eagles as an undrafted rookie. The other two were center Jamaal Jackson and linebacker Akeem Jordan. Nick Cole, an undrafted rookie in 2006, finished the season as a starting guard because of injuries to Shawn Andrews and Max Jean-Gilles.
"Don't count the numbers in the line," is the advice offered by Reid to his undrafted rookies.
"Just come in and play your tail off on every snap," Reid said. "That's whether you're going against a rookie or a veteran. I don't want to see you taking it easy on a veteran. You're fighting for your life as soon as we get to training camp. Everybody will have an opportunity and you'll be graded every play of every practice. We go over the film every night."
If the undrafted rookies want some good news, all they have to do is count the number of players in camp who also were passed up on draft day. Thirty-four of the 80 players scheduled to report to Lehigh weren't drafted and that includes Peters, a two-time Pro Bowl tackle who went to his first NFL camp in Buffalo as an undrafted tight end out of Arkansas in 2004.
The list of undrafted Eagles also includes wide receiver Hank Baskett, defensive ends Juqua Parker and Chris Clemons and fullback Leonard Weaver. They all signed as undrafted players with other teams.
Eagles general manager Tom Heckert said he expects another undrafted rookie to emerge from the 2009 class, which includes nine players. Given the amount of time and effort spent on signing the undrafted players, Heckert probably would be disappointed if at least one of them didn't make the 53-man roster.
"Out of those nine guys, I bet you there are three or four guys that have a real shot to make our team," Heckert said. "Every year, there are three or four guys that we'll do anything possible to get them. Whether it's more money or Andy calls them, we'll do something. You should witness that process one time after the draft. It's a fiasco just trying to get those guys signed."
Langford, a four-year starting safety at Vanderbilt, is one of the undrafted rookies to keep an eye on at Lehigh. He is one of six safeties on the roster and he probably will be fighting with Rashad Baker and Byron Parker for a reserve spot. Baker and Parker, by the way, are also undrafted players on the Eagles' roster.
Bright, a defensive end at Purdue, will battle veteran Matt Schobel for the job as the team's third tight end. Like Peters, he is trying to change positions in the NFL. He can only hope for the same sort of success as Peters.
Dallas Reynolds, an offensive lineman from Brigham Young, is also worth watching because he showed remarkable flexibility in college, playing all five offensive line positions. That's the kind of player that attracts Reid.
Both Jamaal Jackson, whose younger brother Jervonte is among the undrafted rookies, and Mikell had similar advice for the guys in the same position they were once in.
"I just made it a habit to show my face," said Jackson, who didn't get on the field until 2005, two years after he signed with the Eagles. "Anything that was asked of me, I did and then some. Even when we didn't have to be here, I made sure I was here."
Mikell said extra work and standing out on special teams is imperative for the undrafted rookies.
"If you're not drafted, you better be doing the job on special teams," he said. "I took that seriously. I went in every day and watched film with coach [John] Harbaugh. Some people might have said that was being a coach's pet, but I just wanted to get better and make a name for myself."