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.