Rick Lovato

Several of his ex-teammates remember favorite Jon Dorenbos stories

Several of his ex-teammates remember favorite Jon Dorenbos stories

Jon Dorenbos wasn't just a fan favorite. He was a favorite teammate inside the Eagles' locker room too. 

Often, specialists are pretty segregated throughout the day, but Dorenbos was much more to his teammates than a long snapper. He was a showman, a friend and a positive influence in the room. 

That's why so many of his teammates took it hard when Dorenbos was traded to the Saints for a seventh-round pick on Monday night (see story). They know the NFL is a business; Rick Lovato is taking over but they're going to miss the Magic Man. 

With that in mind, CSNPhilly asked several of his former teammates in the locker room on Tuesday for their favorite stories about Dorenbos. Here's what we heard: 

Malcolm Jenkins  
"He has emceed my foundation fundraiser the last two years. And this past year, his grand trick involved him pulling his pants down and literally pulling a card out of his ... tail. But it was cool, man. He obviously had a huge box of 200 decks of cards that's here all the time, he's practicing his tricks. I just think his positive attitude is something that's hard to find in a football locker room that's all year round. A guy that's constantly in a good mood, that's constantly joking around. He's just a good friend and obviously a guy that's going to be missed." 

Jordan Hicks
"I remember I came in right after I got drafted. You know how you come in that next morning? And nobody was here. I remember sitting in [former Eagles players secretary Karen Gerstle's] office and he was the first person I met that was on the team. He told me his story, told me his process of getting here. Asked where I was from. He was just like 'Oh, man, you're going to love it, bunch of great guys!' Really just ... you could see his energy from Day 1. Just sitting there in Karen's office, I was like if all the guys are like this, I'm going to have a freakin' blast. He was just talking about how awesome it was to be in Philly and how awesome it was to play in this league, play in the NFL and how much he enjoyed it. To me, that's probably the best memory I have with him, probably the fondest memory. He was the first person on the team that I met. And just the ability to see that energy, see that positivity, really gave me coming into it, a nervous rookie, somebody who doesn't know what to expect, really gave me a positive perspective, a positive approach when I came back that next week." 

Rick Lovato 
"The one moment that does stick out to me the most is when we had our family day practice over at the stadium at the beginning of training camp. The way he responds to the fans and bringing a kid onto the field with him to throw around. And just seeing that and seeing how much those kids and the fans appreciate all that he did and all that he was for Philadelphia, it really made me see there's so much more to this game than football. It's really awesome to be able to see that and how many people he's been able to touch in this area." 

Brandon Graham 
"Just the shows he used to do. Every year was something different with Dorenbos. He was hosting a lot of stuff; I've been to a lot of events. I loved when he had his little shows and he'd go up to different lockers and kind of have fun with them, whatever the topic was that day. I think those were the most fun because it was more personal with the athletes being in the locker room." 

Chris Maragos 
"I would just say, there's a million of them, but his way with connecting with the guys. He would always break down our huddle the Saturday before the game with a funny random fact and it would somehow correlate to our team and our game or the team we were playing and the date we were playing on. Something like that. He always had something funny. And he was always so smooth, almost like he was rehearsing it for two weeks. And he probably just thought of it five minutes before he went out there. It's just things like that, his randomness, him popping off, doing a trick or stealing a guy's wallet or whatever it might be. Definitely one of those type of things for sure." 

Steven Means
"Coach (Dave) Fipp told me he wanted me to pin [Dorenbos'] hip and lean toward him a little bit. I remember kind of like hitting him and almost picking him up and throwing him. Normally that guy would be kind of mad about it or whatever. He came over and patted me, 'Thanks, man, thanks for the look.' The next play, I went down on the guard and he tried to give me a little extra push. We looked at each other and smiled. And it's just that kind of competitive spirit and nature. He's always been a good dude. He even told me he'd help me snap if that was what I was trying to do, joked around with him before. He's that type of guy."

New Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato hoping for anonymity

New Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato hoping for anonymity

It was an open competition. Even if nobody realized it.

Jon Dorenbos, a two-time Pro Bowl long snapper, a veteran of 14 seasons, an Eagle for over a decade, vs. Rick Lovato, who has played seven games for four teams since graduating from Old Dominion.

One guy who's a world-renowned magician and TV superstar vs. another guy you probably never heard of before Monday evening.

Turns out it was an open competition. And Lovato learned Monday night that he's the winner.

"My special teams coach (Dave Fipp) said he wanted us to go into training camp as if this was a competition and it was," Lovato said Tuesday.

"I just wanted to go in with my head down, do my job, not try to be noticeable or anything like that. But I really hold myself to a high standard, so I wanted to win this job. And I felt like I did that, and I'm just really happy with how it happened."

Lovato, 24, was declared the winner of the Eagles' long-snapping competition when the Eagles shipped Dorenbos to the Saints Monday evening for a 2019 seventh-round pick.

Lovato played two games for the Packers in 2015 and then two games with the Redskins in 2016 and three more with the Eagles last year when Dorenbos was hurt.

"Rick has done a nice job, even going back to last season when he came in late in the season and filled in for us last year," head coach Doug Pederson said.

"Competition makes everybody better. At the end of the day, [we] felt like he was in a good position to help our football team."

Dorenbos has snapped in 201 games and is one of 18 players still active in the NFL that was also playing in 2003.

"Jon was such a big mentor for me," Lovato said. "He helped me here, he helped me develop into the snapper that I am.

"Being a guy going into his third year, he's been a guy to learn from. I haven't really experienced it like he has. I don't want to take anything away from him because he really is a great guy and I liked having him as a mentor."

Dorenbos replaced injured Mike Bartrum midway through the 2006 season and with the exception of three games late last year, he was the long snapper for punts and kicks for a decade.

His departure leaves Brent Celek as the only player left on the Eagles' roster who played in a postseason victory in an Eagles uniform.

"I'm not necessarily trying to fill his shoes because he did such a good job here," Lovato said. "Honestly, there's no taking anything away from him.

"So I just want to come in here and do my job and be unnoticed. He really was such a big part of this city, this organization, what he did in this locker room. And I felt that the moment I met him when I came in here last year. I just want to come in here and do my job and help this team win."

Lovato grew up in Central Jersey and attended Middletown South High School before spending four years at Old Dominion.

When training camp began, he might have been one of the biggest longshots on the 90-man roster.

Now, he's an Eagle, and as a first-year pro, he'll earn $540,000 this year if he stays with the team all year.

Brandon Graham, now one of only seven Eagles who's been here since the Andy Reid Era, said he was "shocked but not surprised" that Dorenbos was shipped.

"I was kind of shocked because he's been here so long," Graham said. "But ... the long snapper, it was a good competition. And I think [Lovato] probably got the better end of it.

"Dorenbos came off a wrist injury. I know things were a little different [for him] because he had to rehab and do a lot of things. I think overall they know what type of guy [Lovato] is and it just shows how much of a business this is.

"Because Dorenbos is a great guy, you'd want him to be here as long as he can. But at the end of the day, it's all about competition and it sucks when you have a guy that's been here a long time that has to go."

When a receiver or a cornerback is struggling, everybody can see it. When a long snapper is struggling?

Nobody knew.

"It was just consistency," Lovato said. "That's the main thing in this game, just being as consistent as possible, having nice velocity on my snaps, good accuracy on my field goals, good protection on punts.

"I feel like I got a lot better at that through this whole offseason and training camp. But it was just something that I had to keep doing and keep my head down and go at it 100 miles per hour."

Pederson, who goes back to 2009 with Dorenbos, said he had a long talk with the veteran long snapper Monday evening.

"We talked and kind of reminisced a little bit," he said. "I just told him how much I appreciated him, how much I loved him and what he's done for not only this organization but this city and wished him well."

Long snapper Rick Lovato ready to make most of opportunity with Eagles

Long snapper Rick Lovato ready to make most of opportunity with Eagles

Rick Lovato is a specialist. 

Whether he’s on the football field or working at his family owned restaurant in Lincroft, N.J. — Joyce’s Subs and Pizza. 

“I’m great at making breakfast sandwiches, subs,” said Lovato, who hails from north of the sub-hoagie Mason-Dixon line. “Those are my two specialties. I can make pizza, but I’m not the best at it.”

For the next three weeks, the Eagles won’t ask the 24-year-old to touch an egg or pizza dough. They won’t put him to work in the kitchen. Instead, they’ll ask him to perform his other specialty. They need him to be a long snapper. 

With longtime Eagle Jon Dorenbos out for the season with a wrist injury that required surgery, the Eagles signed Lovato, an Old Dominion product, this week to fill in. 

Until Washington signed him for 10 days in November, Lovato had spent the season working at Joyce’s, working out and practicing long snapping with his dad, Rick. The 'Skins released him on Nov. 29 when they didn’t need him any longer; their long snapper Nick Sundberg returned from a back injury. 

So Lovato went back home and waited for his next chance. He didn’t have to wait long. He was actually out snapping with his dad when his phone started getting inundated with calls and texts from people who were watching the Eagles game. 

“My phone died while I was trying to look at who was contacting me,” Lovato said. “Run to my car, plug my phone in the charger and everyone was like, ‘Philly’s long snapper is down, you need to contact your agent and do all this to get ready.’ As soon as I go home to watch the game and Brent Celek’s in snapping and I’m like ‘Oh jeez, this is bad because Dorenbos wasn’t even snapping.’”

It was bad. Dorenbos had surgery on Sunday night and the Eagles called on Monday. The Eagles didn’t work out a bunch of long snappers like head coach Doug Pederson said they planned on doing. According to Lovato, they called him and him alone. Apparently seeing his two games with the Packers last year and two games with Washington this season was enough. 

The relationship between a long snapper and the punter/holder is such an important one. Dorenbos and Donnie Jones have been friends for over a decade and have worked together since 2013, when Jones arrived to Philly. 

Lovato and Jones don’t have that long to get acquainted. Just a few days in practice this week, but Jones thinks it’ll be enough. 

“It’s good,” Jones said. “We’ve had two field goal sessions, we’ve had two punt sessions, so I feel good about it. Unfortunately in this game, injury happens. We’re going to miss Jon. But he’s going to come in and fill his shoes, which are obviously big shoes to fill. I feel good about it.” 

There isn’t much of a future in Philly for Lovato, even if he’s perfect. On Thursday, he said he would love to be with the Eagles long-term and hopes it happens, but he probably knows it won’t. Dorenbos is the longest-tenured Eagle and just signed a new extension last month. 

But Lovato is hoping three more weeks of film will help him finally help gain a full-time gig that will keep him out of the family business for a while. 

“Now that my resume has built up so much, I’d like to be on a team permanently and not just jumping around and filling in for guys that get hurt,” he said. “It all started last year when I was with Green Bay. It sucks to fill in for a guy that gets hurt but it’s an opportunity you have to take advantage of. That’s how jobs like these work.”

If the NFL doesn’t work out, at least Lovato makes a mean breakfast sandwich.