Bruce Hector is used to being underestimated.
After he signed with the University of South Florida out of Robinson High School in Tampa, one college scouting web site ranked him 21st out of USF's 25 recruits that year.
So, when the 6-foot-2, 296-pound defensive tackle went undrafted in April despite finishing his career with the fourth-most sacks (18) in school history, he didn't spend a lot of time feeling sorry for himself.
"I wasn't disappointed,'' he said. "Somebody told me one time that you're going to be on a team whether you get drafted or sign with somebody.
"So I felt that whatever happened, I was going to get a chance to live out my dream and play in the NFL. [Not getting drafted] didn't change my approach. I came in with the same mindset I would've come in with if I had been a first-round pick. My goal was to go out and show them what I got.''
Hector ended up signing with the Eagles after getting the cold shoulder in the draft, and has done an impressive job this summer of showing them what he's got. It's been more than enough to put him in excellent position to win a roster job with the Super Bowl champions.
NFL teams must reduce their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Saturday. With Tim Jernigan still recovering from offseason back surgery and not expected to return until at least November, Hector likely will open the season as the team's fourth defensive tackle, behind Fletcher Cox, Haloti Ngata and Destiny Vaeao.
Hector is an athletic player with quick feet, strong hands and good hips, who is powerful enough to line up at nose tackle and quick enough to play the three-technique.
He has outplayed his main competition for the fourth DT spot – 2017 seventh-round pick Elijah Qualls and Aziz Shittu, who spent the 2016 season on the Eagles practice squad and last year on injured reserve.
The Eagles could end up keeping five tackles, as they did last season. But the fact that defensive end Michael Bennett also can play inside in both base and sub-packages might prompt them to go top-heavy at end and lighter at tackle. Either way, Hector appears to have played himself into an NFL job.
"I've been happy that I've been getting better every day,'' he said after Thursday's final preseason game against the Jets. "That's the one thing people told me coming in. Just focus on getting better every day. Go out and work hard. Go out there and play with passion every day.
"And I feel like I've been doing that. I think throughout the whole process I've been getting steadily better. And that's the good thing.''
Hector is one of two undrafted rookies with a legitimate chance of making the Eagles' season-opening roster. The other is running back Josh Adams.
The Eagles could open the season with as many as 13 players on their roster who entered the league as undrafted free agents. That includes nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, Bennett, safety Rodney McLeod, Vaeao and running back Corey Clement, who had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown as a rookie in the Eagles' Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
Hector said he never considered the long odds of making the Eagles as an undrafted rookie when he signed with them in the spring.
"One thing I've always been taught is just come in with a blue-collar mentality,'' he said. "My college coach [Willie Taggert] always talked about that. We even had blue shirts and everything to get the point across.
"He would tell us, 'Just come in every day and work hard. Don't worry about what else is happening or what's going on. Focus on getting better.' That's the approach I take here.''
The Eagles have a veteran defensive line group that includes the 34-year-old Ngata, 32-year-old Bennett, 33-year-old Chris Long, 30-year-old Brandon Graham and 27-year-old Cox. What's good about those players is that they're willing to share their knowledge and experience with younger players such as Hector.
"A lot of players have helped me out,'' he said. "I've gone to them, but they come to me a lot. Sometimes they see something on the field that I didn't necessarily see or know. They'll take me aside and tell me I should do this or do that.
"And if there's something that I don't know, like how to play a block a certain way, I'll go to them. They've been great.''