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Purcell finally getting chance to play for Kelly

Nik Purcell, who was out of college eligibility when Chip Kelly tried to get him to play for Oregon, is in Eagles’ training camp.

Nic Purcell during practice. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Nic Purcell during practice. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

WHEN EAGLES coach Chip Kelly decided to sign undrafted offensive tackle Nic Purcell, it was not the first time he had gone to bat for him.

The 6-6, 305-pound Purcell had finished playing 2 years of junior college ball at Golden West Community College in Huntington Beach, Calif., and had offers to play high-level Division I college football.

The NCAA then stepped in with an issue about the Auckland, New Zealand native.

"The issue was an amateurism issue," Purcell said. "I participated in some organized sport in New Zealand. The thing was two club football games, kind of social football games, [which] got me in trouble with the NCAA. They were not paid games or anything. They were just guys playing on the weekend.

"But because they had a riff, they counted it as organized sport, and they said that started my college clock," Purcell added. "So after my sophomore year at junior college, I had burned up all of my eligibility, and they were not going to let me go play Division I football."

That was when Chip Kelly stepped in.

Oregon was on the list of schools that wanted the services of Purcell for what they thought were 2 years of eligibility. Kelly and the Oregon compliance office worked on his case so that Purcell would be able to play.

"Oregon was going to bat for me," Purcell said. "While I was working hard, they were working hard, too. I was banking that they were going to win. Even though I knew it was kind of a longshot, I was preparing for everything to work out. I was trying to be in the best shape I could be in to contribute to the University of Oregon, to their football team. I was training hard. I was doing everything right that I needed to do from a football standpoint to prepare me to go out and play Division I football."

Ultimately, earlier this year, the NCAA did not reverse its decision, and Purcell had no eligibility left to play at the collegiate level.

"When that didn't work out, and I got a phone call from the University of Oregon that the appeal was denied, I was in good shape because I was getting ready to go play Division I football," he said. "Obviously this is a higher level of football than Division I, but the preparations that I was making to go play high-level football helped me make the transition from junior-college football to the NFL."

As soon as he got the call from the Eagles, he started preparing for life in the NFL. He attended rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, and received an invitation to training camp. He is trying to make the most out of the time at NovaCare.

"It's been really good," Purcell said. "It has been taking in a lot. There is a lot to learn in a short period of time. But it has been good, it has been fun. It has been hard, as you can expect. I still have progress to make, and am trying to get better every day."

Purcell finally has the chance to play in front of Kelly, but this time, he is fighting for a spot on an NFL roster. He still is thankful for what Kelly and Oregon tried to do for him.

"Oregon and their football and compliance department, they fought and they fought hard for me. That is something that I'll be grateful for, despite the outcome," Purcell said. "I'm still grateful for the efforts that they put in. We tried, and it didn't work out. That's OK, you just have to take things as they come, and that didn't go my way. You can't dwell on that. At the end of the day, I am still grateful for coach Kelly, and their staff and the compliance people at Oregon to try to help me through the dilemma that I was in."

When asked if he ever thought that in the same summer that he would be preparing to play for Kelly at Oregon that he would be playing for him in Philadelphia, he responded, "Not at all."

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