If Eagles running back Elijah Holyfield plays in Sunday’s Wild Card game against the Seahawks he’ll be making his NFL debut … in the playoffs and with a team he joined less than a week earlier.
Not exactly how he thought it would come.
“It’s what I’ve been practicing for,” Holyfield said. “I tried to keep myself in the best shape, practice hard every day and stay ready. That’s what I did so when the opportunity came, I’d be ready for it.”
Holyfield, 22, went undrafted out of Georgia in the spring and spent his entire rookie season on the Panthers’ practice squad. While seven of his former practice squad teammates were in Carolina signing futures contracts, Holyfield got a call from his agent.
His rookie season wasn’t over after all.
“Yeah, I was surprised,” Holyfield said. “I didn’t really have much of an idea. I was really surprised.”
The Eagles flew Holyfield, son of Evander, to Philly and signed him without a workout. He’s now the fourth running back on the roster, along with Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott.
And because Sanders is nursing an ankle injury and because Howard is still working his way back from a stinger and six-game absence, there might actually be a small role for Holyfield in his first NFL game.
“We liked him all the way back in the draft,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “I actually went to a private workout with him at Georgia this past spring and was down there. We really liked the kid coming out and all-that, so obviously had our eye on that.”
The Eagles liked Holyfield but they drafted Miles Sanders in the second round. Eventually, all 32 teams passed on Holyfield and he went undrafted. That probably had something to do with Holyfield’s disappointing performance at the combine.
In Indianapolis, Holyfield ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, the second-worst time posted by the group of 23 running backs in attendance. And his jumps weren’t much better.
Holyfield said the Eagles’ coaching staff was encouraging after that showing. He’s obviously tired of talking about the combine, but it doesn’t bother him the most.
“The combine didn’t really make me mad, it was just not being drafted and all the stuff like that,” Holyfield said. “I just have to go back to work. What got me there was working and just continue to push and have faith in the Lord and that’s what I continue to do.”
This was an important week of preparation for Holyfield as he tried to consume an entire new playbook. The key, he said, is taking small bites. He didn't try to learn the whole thing at once. And he’s confident the coaching staff won’t put him in any situations that he’s not prepared for.
If things go well, Holyfield is hoping he’ll be around a little longer than this playoff run. The Eagles will have Miles Sanders and Boston Scott around next year but Jordan Howard is going to be a free agent, Darren Sproles retired and Corey Clement will be coming off another season-ending injury.
“I think you always gotta carry yourself that way, always fighting, always hungry,” Holyfield said. “I’m definitely ready and ready to show them and help them any way I can.”
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