Remembering 20 of our favorite Eagles' training camp stars
They’re not necessarily the biggest, the fastest, the strongest … heck, they’re not even the best players … but every year they take over the summer. You know the guys I’m talking about. Dating back decades these Eagles have become cult heroes for fans at training camp. Some of them go on to have great careers, some become footnotes. But they all have their place in training camp history.
Here are 20 of our favorites in no particular order.
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In recent history, Turner’s name is the one that probably stands out the most. In the summer of 2016, Doug Pederson’s first year as head coach, Turner was the unquestioned hero of training camp. The 5-foot-10 undrafted wideout from Louisiana Tech was a standout that summer and even led the entire league that preseason with 17 catches for 165 yards. Turner made the initial roster that season but was cut when the team claimed Bryce Treggs off waivers. Eventually, Turner was promoted to the 53-man roster. He played four games for the Eagles in 2016 and caught six balls for 80 yards in an ugly loss to the Bengals.
Turner failed to make the Eagles’ roster in 2017. Last season, he spent time with the Saints, then the Patriots and then went back to the Saints’ practice squad but is without a team.
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In Chip Kelly’s final training camp, this local product quickly became a fan favorite. The Roxborough High and Delaware Valley receiver started to turn heads at the NovaCare Complex and fans latched on. In the 2015 preseason, Bailey caught 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Despite that strong performance, Bailey was waived on the cut down to 53.
After brief stints with the Jags and Chargers, Bailey came back to Philly in 2017 but was released in May. From there, he bounced from the Browns to the Panthers, but has yet to make a 53-man roster.
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Like so many of the guys on this list, Josey was undrafted, but he was a running back. The 5-9 Josey went undrafted out of Missouri in 2014 and signed with the Birds. In the 2014 preseason, Josey had 34 carries for 225 yards and caught three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown … but it wasn’t enough. He was released at final cuts as the Eagles kept just three RBs (LeSean McCoy, Chris Polk, Darren Sproles) on their initial 53-man roster.
After leaving Philly, Josey was signed to the Jaguars practice squad and then to the Vikings’ 53-man roster later that year, but never made it into a game. After that, he went to the Toronto Argonauts in 2015 and signed with the Redblacks in 2017.
Now maybe more known for his reality fame as the former husband of Kendra Wilkinson, there was a time where Baskett was just another training camp standout. But his journey started in a unique way. As an undrafted rookie, Baskett signed with the Vikings in 2006, but that May, they traded him to the Eagles for Billy McMullen, who was a third-round pick a few years earlier.
Baskett (6-4, 220) quickly became a training camp darling but actually ended up making the team and playing a roll with the Eagles for a few years. He played in 50 games for the Eagles and caught 72 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns. After joining the Colts for a year, Baskett came back to the Eagles briefly in 2010. After he was cut that September, he went back to Minnesota, where he played the last six NFL games in his career and had just one catch.
The Eagles signed the shifty 5-8 receiver after he went undrafted in 2012 out of Tulsa, where he became the NCAA’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards. But Johnson was suspended for his senior year for an incident in which he was eventually charged for embezzlement. But when he came to the Eagles, he became a fan favorite immediately as a gadgety player who everyone thought would thrive on special teams. In the 2012 preseason, Johnson caught 12 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown and returned 10 punts.
In 2012 and 2013, Johnson played in 27 games for the Eagles, catching 21 passes for 270 yards and returning 38 punts and 17 kickoffs. After he was released by the Eagles before the 2014 season, he went to Houston and played that season for the Texans, having the best offensive season of his short career. In 2015, he played just one game for the Patriots (against the Eagles), which was the final game of his NFL career.
The Eagles drafted the 6-foot receiver in the sixth round out of Washington State in 2009. In his first preseason, he caught 12 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Gibson performed well enough to make the Eagles’ roster but didn’t stick around for long. The Eagles traded him to the Rams in October for linebacker Will Witherspoon. He never caught a pass for the Eagles but had a good rookie season in St. Louis, catching 34 passes for 348 yards and a touchdown.
In all, Gibson played six years in the NFL, split between the Rams and Dolphins. His best season came for the Rams in 2012, when he caught 51 passes for 691 yards and five touchdowns. Gibson finished his career with 233 catches for 2,711 yards and 13 touchdowns. The only Eagles receiver in the modern era drafted later than Gibson to have more catches is Harold Carmichael.
The Dolphins actually drafted Booker in the third round of the 2007 draft, but the Eagles traded for him the next April, giving away a fourth-round pick for the 5-foot-10 running back. Booker was the type of player made to stand out in practices, with his shiftiness and agility. He was also in line to become a return man for the Eagles.
In 2008, Booker ended up playing in 10 games for the Eagles. He had 20 carries and caught six passes and never returned a kick or punt. He was waived at final cuts in 2009. Eventually, Booker latched on with the Vikings in 2010 and 2011, but his best season remained his rookie year with the Dolphins, who traded him away one year after drafting him.
We’re going back here a little bit, but there’s no way this list happens without Brown, who was a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina back in 1999. He was taken a few rounds after Donovan McNabb was taken second overall and a bunch of fans probably thought Brown would be catching passes from McNabb from years to come. Brown is one of the first players I really remember getting this much training camp hype.
Ultimately, he didn’t live up to it. He caught 34 passes for 363 yards and two touchdowns in three seasons with the Eagles. After years away from football, Brown showed up on the roster of the Huntington Hammer of the Ultimate Indoor Football League in 2011, but his last game in the NFL came 10 years earlier for the Eagles in 2001.
Another small running back, the 5-foot-8 Moats was the Eagles’ third-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2005, so unlike a lot of these guys, he didn’t come out of nowhere. In that preseason, he had 25 carries for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Moats made the Eagles roster as a rookie and had a huge game against the Giants in December, when he ran 11 times for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The next week, he went for 78 yards on 12 carries with another score. Just two rookies in Eagles history have had 70-plus yards and a rushing touchdown in back-to-back games: Ryan Moats in 2005 and Bryce Brown in 2012.
After missing the entire 2007 season with a broken ankle, Moats resurfaced in Houston from 2008-09. His best NFL season was his last. In 2009 with the Texans, Moats rushed for 390 yards and four touchdowns and added a receiving touchdown.
So much has happened with Cooper since that it’s almost hard to remember him as the fifth-round pick out of Florida in 2010 who turned heads. But that’s what the 6-3 receiver was back then. His preseason was very good, catching nine passes for 149 (16.6) and a touchdown. In the regular season, Cooper caught just seven passes as a rookie but his role kept increasing. His best season in Philly came in 2013, when he caught 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns.
But Cooper’s time in Philly will be remembered for the video of him saying a racial slur at a country concert in the summer of 2013. Despite the incident, Chip Kelly kept Cooper on the roster and the Eagles gave him a $25 million extension the next season. The Eagles released Cooper in February of 2016 and he hasn’t played in the NFL since.
We now know Clement as one of the heroes of Super Bowl LII, but before he capped his rookie season with a parade, he started it as a fan favorite at training camp. The running back from Glassboro went undrafted but the Eagles signed him and gave him a fair chance in 2017. Clement made the most of it. Sure, he was partially a fan favorite because he was a local kid, but he was balling at camp and in the preseason games.
The Eagles kept him on their roster and he ended up playing a significant role as a rookie. Heck, he had 100 receiving yards in the Super Bowl! Clement is coming back from a knee injury in 2019 but should be a part of the Eagles’ rotation.
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Like so many players on this list, Hall was an undersized player with a ton a grit. The 5-8 Air Force product went undrafted in 2008 and then served his two years. The Eagles signed him in 2010. He definitely had a unique story and it was as easy for reporters to write about Hall as it was for fans to root for him. And Hall looked good that summer, turning heads in practice and in the preseason. But he still didn’t survive final cuts.
Hall began his rookie season on the practice squad but was called up in October. In parts of two seasons with the Eagles, Hall had 14 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He then bounced around from San Francisco to Kansas City and last played in the NFL in 2013. He’s now the receivers coach in Buffalo under Sean McDermott, who was the Eagles’ defensive coordinator in Hall’s rookie year.
The Eagles took the 5-10 cornerback out of Georgia in the fourth round of 2012, which was the last draft for Andy Reid. With his feisty style and return ability, Boykin gained fans quickly. That whole preseason he showed up in games as a return man and as a corner. And his rookie season, he played in 16 games with four starts. But Juan Castillo was fired as DC during his rookie season and Reid was fired after the year. Chip Kelly came in and preferred his outside corners to have more length, which meant Boykin was stuck as the team’s nickel corner, a role that did seem to suit him. He had six INTs in 2013. But before the 2015 season, Boykin was traded to Pittsburgh.
He played just one year in Pittsburgh and played all 16 games that year, but he curiously hasn’t played in a game since 2015. There were rumors he had a hip issue, but that’s never been confirmed. Recently, Boykin was on NFL Network talking about the Steelers’ offense.
When I was covering my first training camps, Harbor was the first one to get me. I believed he was destined for big things. And there was reason to believe that. The tight end from Missouri State was a fourth-round pick and he was supposed to be the next Brent Celek. Celek had his best season in 2009. In 2010, Harbor was wowing folks at Lehigh. Here’s what ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote about Harbor back then: “Every day at training camp, Harbor makes a play. Every day.”
Harbor made the roster in 2010 and spent three seasons with the Eagles before moving on to Jacksonville, where he found a little more success. But he never reached 300 yards receiving in a season and was out of the league after 2016. Recently, he’s said he wants to make an NFL comeback.
The Eagles used a sixth-round pick on the 6-4 quarterback-turned-receiver from Iowa and he had a good training camp in his rookie year in 2012. The big playmaker got extra opportunity when Riley Cooper broke his collarbone and he made the most of it at Lehigh. Though he lacked speed, McNutt was a big and physical receiver, so it was easy to be wowed by his size and athleticism.
McNutt didn’t make the initial roster in 2012 but hung around on the practice squad, eventually being promoted. He played in four games that season. He bounced around after that, to the Dolphins, Panthers and Redskins and never caught an NFL pass. In 2016, he was the head coach of the Cedar Rapids Titans of the Indoor Football League. It looks like he now trains players with his company McNutt Football.
It was just last year, but Mailata instantly became a fan favorite when the Eagles drafted the enormous offensive tackle from Australia in the seventh round. Even though he never played the sport before, Mailata had all the physical tools to intrigue the Eagles and fans. And then he had the personality to make everyone root for him. He worked hard last year and did very well in preseason games.
Mailata’s rookie season ended with a trip to the IR with a stress fracture in his back, but he’s back for his second year and fans are still rooting for the 6-8 Aussie.
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Despite joining the Eagles after training camp had already started in 2018, Carter had a fascinating backstory and immediately started making plays. Last preseason, he had 10 catches for 178 yards. Carter made a promise to his younger brother on his deathbed that he would make it in the NFL. And after a magical few weeks in training camp and the preseason, it happened. Carter made the Eagles’ 53-man roster in 2018 and even played in the season opener. He was then put on the practice squad, brought back up and eventually waived again. From there, he was claimed by the Houston Texans.
In 2018, between the Eagles and Texans, Carter played in 14 games with four starts and returned 26 punts and 19 kicks. He also had 22 catches for 216 yards. He’s still on the Texans’ roster.
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Kinne went undrafted out of Tulsa in 2012 but didn’t make it to the Eagles until 2013, when he was with the Birds as a quarterback in training camp. He was on the practice squad for the entire 2014 season. In 2015, he came back to the Eagles as a receiver/utility player, trying whatever he could to make the roster, but was released again at final cuts. He showed willingness to do whatever it took in 2013, but he really went all-in in 2015; it just didn’t work out.
Kinne spent some time with the Giants after he left the Eagles, before heading north to Canada. He played for the Calgary Stampeders and the Saskatchewan Roughriders before calling it a career. Kinne is now on the Eagles’ coaching staff as an “offensive special projects” coach.
Gasperson (6-4, 220) signed with the Eagles in 2005 after going undrafted out of San Diego, where he played under Jim Harbaugh. The big-bodied receiver seemed to make plays daily and shined in the preseason.
Eventually, Gasperson changed positions, attempting to make it as a tight end in Philadelphia. He played in one NFL game on Dec. 23, 2007, a 38-23 Eagles win over the Saints. McNabb targeted him once, but Gasperson never got his first NFL catch.
I’ll be honest, I’m deferring to some of my coworkers on this one, because I was still a baby when the Eagles brought Billy Hess to camp as an undrafted player back in 1989. It isn’t hard to see why the West Chester University product became a fan favorite. Heck, back then, the Eagles still held training camp at West Chester, where Hess set school records with 182 catches for 2,866 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Hess still lives in the area and makes his way to training camp in the summer. This photo is from his Twitter account (@BillyHess80)