Football, Not Futbol
Rookie Diary With Eli Ricks
Sporting a wide grin for what he deemed to be about 15 seconds after receiving his congratulatory, welcome-to-the-Eagles roster FaceTime from team personnel chief Howie Roseman and head coach Nick Sirianni, rookie free agent cornerback Eli Ricks entered rarified air.
He became the only undrafted free agent from this year’s class to make the team’s 53-man roster.
“I prayed on the situation, I talked to my family,” Ricks recalled Wednesday. “I really was cool with whatever. I really wanted to be here, but I knew I gave my all when I was out there each game.
“So, I really wasn’t feeling no type of way because I knew I gave all my effort. Even if I didn’t make any team, I would have been cool with it because I knew that was all I have. So, just real appreciative.”
Ricks, 22, was widely considered to be a crown jewel post-draft signing, though his odds and path to playing time might have been more favorable elsewhere.
Once heralded as the No. 1 cornerback in the 2020 recruiting class, Ricks spent his first two seasons at LSU before transferring to Alabama for the 2022 season.
With practice reps in training camp relatively scarce, and with time dwindling, Ricks shone brightest during the preseason games, logging 109 defensive snaps and 32 on special teams.
He closed out preseason play with five tackles, four passes defended, an interception and a touchdown, parlaying his head-turning exhibition success into a spot on the 53.
Ricks has appeared in three of four regular season games to date, accounting for 43 special teams snaps and one on defense, but his diligence behind the scenes suggests a more substantial role could be in the cards later this season.
As part of an Inside The Birds Rookie Diary series, I’ll be checking in with Ricks throughout the season, learning more about the first-year corner and chronicling his rookie campaign.
On Wednesday, we took a look at his brief Eagles tenure and touched on some of his off-field interests:
Q: Four games into your career, what has been your primary takeaway?
Eli: “I’ve been getting better and better every week on special teams. That’s kind of been echoed from the coaches and myself. We both think that, so I think that’s great. Probably something I struggled with during preseason, so I’m glad I’m getting better at that. The defense, [I’m] getting more reps in practice, so that’s good. Getting more comfortable with the team, getting more comfortable with the defense. So, I honestly feel great right now.
Q: What did you learn about yourself during the preseason?
Eli: “I was kind of worried about how I would handle an NFL playbook. But coming from Alabama, with how thick their playbook is, it helped me out a lot. So, I’d really say the learning curve is really just kind of learn where your role is on the team and do the most you can at it. And I think that’s what I’m doing right now.”
Q: Is there a specific lesson or experience you’ve taken with you from college and applied at the next level?
Eli: “I mean it’s kinda the same here – if not more – but really the emphasis in the film room. It’s not as much film in college, but thank God I had coaches that really cared about me and made me stay extra, or watch extra film on my own. So, that really helped me out a lot, especially at Alabama, with how much film we watched there and how much the process was. Coming here, it wasn’t really too much for me, knowing with how much meetings we have and how much film we watch compared to practice. Obviously, that’s really the only difference from college to the NFL – a lot more meetings and less practice. That helped me out a lot on the mental side.”
Q: What were your thoughts when you found out you’d play the Vikings on prime time for your NFL debut?
Eli: “Honestly, I always prepare like I’m going to be starting. So, I’m always ready for whatever they call me up for; if it’s to start tomorrow or if it’s to do that. So, I’ll be ready for whatever.”
Q: The organization places an emphasis on positional versatility in the secondary. Have you cross-trained?
Eli: “For the past two weeks, I’ve been learning nickel a little bit. Probably about half of my reps at practice have been at nickel. So, just staying after practice, watching extra film, and just seeing where I can help the team at. That’s really the main focus right now.
Q: How comfortable are you playing inside?
Eli: I wouldn’t say I’m all the way comfortable there yet, but it’s definitely been a lot of progression since literally the first week. So, I definitely feel I’m getting more comfortable, and I feel like in a little amount of time, I’ll be able to play there.
Q: Do you have a pregame ritual or game day superstition?
Eli: I wear the same pair of underwear. That, and I really just say a prayer and do the same stretch before every game.
Q: What’s on your playlist?
Eli: A lot of things. Tame Impala, Future, Babyface Ray, Kanye West. It’s a mixture of everything. I listen to everything.
Q: So, you’re an avid soccer fan and if you had another job it would be playing left wing for Liverpool?
Eli: “I played soccer until I was 12 years old. And the only reason I stopped playing soccer is because I got too many cards and all the other parents are like, ‘He needs to be playing football!’ So, that’s honestly how I started playing football, because of soccer.
Q: Jiu-Jitsu is a desired talent of yours. Any luck finding a place in Philly? Has there been any progress made?
Eli: The only progression that’s been on that is me just watching it. There’s been no other progression besides that. In the off-season sometime, I’ll see if I can pick it up.
Q: Describe the camaraderie among yourself, Josh Jobe, Mario Goodrich and Kelee Ringo – the young CBs.
Eli: “We all just go out there and help each other. It’s a competition, but we really don’t see it as that; we all just go out every day, give our all, and just leave it at that. We’ve got a good camaraderie, we’re always baggin’ on each other every day – you know, talkin’ stuff – so, it’s a really good camaraderie.”
Q: What’s the latest debate amongst the group?
Eli: “[Thinking] … Probably who dresses the worst. That’s probably the biggest debate right now. [Laughs]”
Q: And who is in the lead?
Eli: [Laughs] You gotta ask somebody else that. I ain’t gonna rat ‘em out. But let’s see. Let’s just judge off the next game, their fits for the game.
Q: What’s one goal you’re striving to achieve this week?
Eli: I’d probably still say nickel. I’m brand new at that position – I’m probably only two-and-a-half weeks at nickel, but really, this is my second week playing it. So, I would say focusing on that, getting better on that, and just getting more comfortable at the position.
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.