When Dallas Goedert steps on the field for his first regular season NFL game on Thursday night, there will be 70,000 people making for a raucous crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.
Not to mention millions watching at home.
It just so happens that the Eagles’ second-round pick, who played his college career at FCS South Dakota State, will start his NFL career on the biggest stage imaginable. Thursday Night Football to start the 2018 season; the only game on TV.
“We played some big games in college, but nothing to the extent of this,” Goedert said this week. “Obviously, this will be the biggest game of my life. I’m really excited for it.”
The 23-year-old rookie tight end admitted there might be a little extra nerves on his end, but he expects them to disappear once the game starts. It might help that his parents are coming to town to cheer him on. He said it’s a “dream come true” to start his NFL career on this big of a stage.
Goedert was asked to name his most memorable opening day. He mentioned the very first game of his college career back on Aug. 30, 2014. His Jackrabbits were on the road to take on No. 24 Missouri at Faurot Field in front of just over 60,000 in an FBS game.
The Jackrabbits lost that one 38-18, but kept the game pretty close. Goedert picked up his first college reception in that game. It went for nine yards. Pretty soon, that memory might be second for him.
The Eagles’ second-round pick acquitted himself quite well this preseason. He caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. We saw some great flashes from him over the last month, but the preseason doesn’t really matter. The Eagles need him to do it during the regular season.
“It’s different,” Goedert said. “You just have to know that intensity is going to pick up, you’re going to be playing against better players who are great all-around athletes, they know what they are doing a little bit better. I just have to prepare a little bit harder and be ready for tougher football games.”
Goedert is already listed as the No. 2 tight end on the Eagles’ roster, but he’ll probably need to take an even bigger role for the first few weeks of the season. Third tight end Richard Rodgers has a knee injury and won’t be playing in this game. The rookie said it’s a shame to see his teammate hurt, but is ready to take on a big role for the season.
While he said he has sometimes set goals for himself in the past, Goedert can’t do that yet because he isn’t sure of what his role will be exactly. He does know he’ll have a role, though. Based on what we saw from him at training camp, a lot of it will probably come in the red zone.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” he said. “Obviously, when you first get here, the game’s a lot faster. The plays are new and everything. After being here for a while, the game’s slowed down quite a bit. The playbook is a lot more familiar. We’ve started game-planning so there are new plays, but I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m in a good spot.”
The Eagles are expecting a lot from their first pick of the 2018 draft. They come into this season without Trey Burton and Brent Celek, so the Eagles are going to rely on Zach Ertz and Goedert even more. There’s not much time for rookie struggles. The Eagles need Goedert to perform and that starts on Thursday night in front of the football world.
Everyone is going to be watching.
How high is Goedert’s excitement level?
“It’s really high,” he answered. “Obviously, playing in the preseason was great, but going into the regular season is a completely different thing. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”