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Del Val grad takes his shot at making Eagles

Rasheed Bailey knows the odds. He knows the NFL deck is not necessarily stacked to deal him a winning hand. That's fine. He's dealt with long odds before, and look where he is now.

Rasheed Bailey set receiving marks at Delaware Valley. (AP Photo)
Rasheed Bailey set receiving marks at Delaware Valley. (AP Photo)Read more

Rasheed Bailey knows the odds. He knows the NFL deck is not necessarily stacked to deal him a winning hand. That's fine. He's dealt with long odds before, and look where he is now.

"I have that drive, that passion, everything that Philly is," said Bailey, a wide receiver from Delaware Valley University signed by the Eagles as an undrafted free agent. "I wear a chip on my shoulder coming from a small school, and having been a fan to now being a player, I wear it every day."

Bailey might be a long shot to make the team - one of nine receivers vying for perhaps six spots on the 53-man roster - but this isn't his first challenge. Coming out of Roxborough High School as a tight end for a team that ran the ball almost exclusively, there was no guarantee Bailey would even get to play football in college.

"I started at ground zero and I learned and learned and learned, and that's why I'm going to be used to this. It's all I've done," said Bailey, who is taking part in rookie camp this weekend. "I thought [at Del Val] that I was raw. I thought I had talent, but it needed to be coached."

Head coach Duke Greco knew he wanted Bailey, but he wasn't sure what he had for a while. In fact, quite a while.

"He wasn't ready to go out there and play. Day one, he had to learn the stance," Greco said. "We had to teach him the position entirely."

How did it turn out? Last season, Bailey led the Division III nation in receiving yards, receiving yards per game, and receiving touchdowns. He caught 80 passes for 1,707 yards and 19 touchdowns, breaking the Del Val school records in all those categories.

"I still have a lot to prove, even though I had a number of records. I have to prove it on another level and that's why I'm here," Bailey said. "I'm preparing myself for a fight. I'll let my play do the talking, not the numbers."

For Bailey, the opportunity comes at a time when the Eagles are not entirely settled at wide receiver. It might be a little crowded, but Bailey has enough size (6-foot-2) and speed (4.57 in the 40-yard dash) to have earned a look, and that was all he asked.

"He's the best. You can ask anyone on campus," Greco said. "I think coming from this level, if you're a 1,000-yard guy at D-III, it's tough to get an opportunity. He was a 1,700-yard guy and it was still tough to get an opportunity. But now that he has, he'll be treated the same way."

The timing had to be good for Bailey last season to get him noticed. His senior season coincided with that of quarterback Aaron Wilmer, who was finishing a 10,000-yard career at Del Val.

"Me and him put in a lot of work. I noticed over time that you can't be the player you want to be if you don't work hard. We sacrificed summers when it was just me and him. We'd be throwing outside in the dark," Bailey said. "After all that dedication, it was time for me to have a big year and it was my senior year."

Bailey wasn't invited to the draft combine, but he took part in a pro day at Villanova and also went to the NovaCare Complex for one of the Eagles' local workouts.

"They always say that the scouts will find you, but I had to work every single day and do whatever I had to do," Bailey said. "My coach told me that in order to make it to the next level, you have to dominate, you have to be unstoppable at [Division III]."

There were nine D-III players in the NFL last season, including two wide receivers (Cecil Shorts, Pierre Garcon), so it's not impossible. It is just very difficult. Based on resumé alone, Bailey is probably ninth out of nine wide receivers with the Eagles. He would probably have to be rated ahead of three of them to make the full roster, and at least ahead of one or two to be given practice squad consideration.

"I have the physical attributes to play this game. The question is, can I get the mental part down pat? Can I believe that I can do it?" Bailey said. "Those are the things that separate failing from succeeding. I'm motivated. I'm going to push every day."

Just to go from being a blocking end at Roxborough High to wearing Eagles gear took many days of work already. It wasn't an easy path from Division III to an NFL rookie camp, but it is the path that made Rasheed Bailey who he is.

"I wouldn't change it for the world," Bailey said. "It gives me my drive, my passion. It gives me everything I need."