Marken Michel

Marken Michel's TD in preseason was figuratively and literally a dream come true

Marken Michel's TD in preseason was figuratively and literally a dream come true

Eagles wide receiver Marken Michel had a date with destiny on Thursday, if you believe in that sort of thing. His 75-yard touchdown catch against the Titans happened just the way he imagined it would, and exactly how Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld said it would.

“I literally dreamed about this play,” Michel said following the Eagles’ preseason opener. “Literally. I dreamed about running a post, catching it and scoring just like that, and it happened. I can’t ask for anything better.

“[Sudfeld] told me if I see a Cover 4 [coverage], he’s coming to me, and that’s exactly what we got, so it was pretty much a perfect situation. Perfect situation, perfect ball.”

Michel was enjoying a strong offseason, one many observers felt put him very much in the mix for a spot on the Eagles’ 53-man roster. But when the CFL product hauled in Sudfeld’s bomb over the outstretched fingertips of Titans cornerback Adoree Jackson, a two-year starter and former first-round pick, he became one step closer to finally breaking into the NFL.

“It’s been a long road,” Michel said. “Only the people closest to me know the things that I’ve been through to get to this point and to get that touchdown.

“For me, that touchdown wasn’t six points. It was way bigger than that.”

The 26-year-old declined to elaborate on his road, though it’s simple enough to map his football journey to this point. Michel played his college ball at Division I-FCS UMass, then spent training camp with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

When Michel failed to make the practice squad or get picked up by another NFL team, it was off to Canada the following year, where he recorded 72 receptions for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns and won a Grey Cup Championship in two seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

Even there, Michel was constantly fighting for respect.

“It was funny because a lot of people kind of deemed me a ‘gamer,’” Michel said. “In practice I wouldn’t make plays, but in the game, I would get it done, so I kind of take that mentality.

“Even though I go hard in practice, when the lights are on, it’s showtime.”

That hasn’t been the case since signing with the Eagles in January. Michel was one of the media darlings of spring OTAs, racking up impressive catches in the sessions that were open to reporters.

Michel hasn’t been targeted quite as frequently in training camp, but a 75-yard touchdown in an exhibition game figures to restore some of his momentum.

“I feel like I kind of started on a high note and then kind of slowed down a little bit,” said Michel, who entered camp with the unrealistic goal of making a big play in every practice. “But for me, I like to be my toughest critic, so I like to come to practice every day with the mindset of making a big play.

“When I don’t make a big play every day, it bothers me a little bit.”

While the Eagles have four receivers currently pegged as locks to make the team — Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor and JJ Arcega-Whiteside — a fifth spot is up for grabs. Mack Hollins is considered the front-runner, but he missed all last season with an injury and hasn’t been a picture of health this summer, either.

The Eagles could potentially carry Michel as a sixth receiver, too, provided he shows any semblance of value on special teams. Recently, he’s seen work as a punt returner.

Michel faces plenty of competition from other prospects such as Shelton Gibson, Charles Johnson, Greg Ward and Carlton Agudosi. However, he’s banking on his time in the CFL giving him a leg up in his battle.

“It wasn’t really that much different,” Michel said. “I was playing on a great team, great program, a lot of great coaches who helped me develop as a receiver and they prepared for what was to come today, so I’m forever grateful to them.”

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After his younger brother’s success, Marken Michel ready to make a name for himself

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After his younger brother’s success, Marken Michel ready to make a name for himself

As Marken Michel has been clawing to create a football career of his own, he watched as his younger brother went to a college powerhouse, got drafted in the first round of the NFL draft and then became a Super Bowl champion as a rookie. 

That would make a lot of guys jealous. 

Not him. 

“There’s never been a bone of jealousy in that relationship at all,” said Allen Pinder, a close family friend whom Marken and Sony Michel consider an older brother. 

While Sony has found fast success in the NFL, his older brother (by about year and a half) has taken a more circuitous route. 

Marken Michel, 25, went undrafted out of UMass in 2016, spent that summer with the Vikings and then went to the Canadian Football League for the past couple seasons before joining the Eagles in January. 

After an impressive offseason, Sony’s older brother might finally have his own chance to stick in the NFL. 

At the end of the day, I said this my first year when I came out of college,” Marken said last week, “one of us is going to put that last name on an NFL jersey. Whether it’s me or him or both of us. He knows I’m super proud of him. I’m always there with him every step of the way. I’m always going to root for him.

Always competitive

While Marken is a receiver now, he was a quarterback until his junior year of high school. Sony, of course, was the running back, who played varsity football as an eighth-grader. Pinder, 37, doesn’t think that would have happened without older bro watching out for him. 

In fact, Pinder thinks a lot of Sony’s football success can be directly attributed to Marken. 

“Marken pushed Sony and Sony wanted to be like Marken,” Pinder said in a phone call last week to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Marken started off with more success than Sony did and it has kind of driven Sony to be like, ‘I need to get where Marken’s at.’ Marken always fueled Sony. ‘I need to work harder, I need to be better.’”

As you might imagine between two athletic brothers who are a year and a half apart, there was a constant competition between them as they grew up in Florida. They competed in everything. Football, baseball, basketball. 

Marken said they used to have 3-point shootouts at their childhood park. He was asked who is ahead in the all-time tally and he didn’t hesitate. 

“Me,” he said. “Of course.” 

Would Sony corroborate that? 

“He better, or he’ll be lying.” 

The two are wildly competitive but are also best friends. When they talk, it’s rarely about football. But, of course, when Sony played in Super Bowl LIII in February, Marken was there rooting for him. Marken said that Sony knows when he’s watching him play, he better not mess up. 

Sony’s Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, 13-3, over the Rams. Sony had 18 carries for 94 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown. 

“He knew it,” Marken said. “He knew if he didn’t, I would be on him.” 

North of the border

After things didn’t work out for Michel in Minnesota, where Pinder thinks he wasn’t really given a great opportunity, he ended up with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. He was the CFL West Division Rookie of the Year in 2017 and was a part of the Grey Cup-winning team in 2018, although he missed the end of the season with a broken scapula. 

He was bummed to miss the Grey Cup in November but was thrilled his team won. Since he was in OTAs in May, he and linebacker Alex Singleton (who is also on the Eagles’ roster) missed the ring ceremony. Singleton was heading north for the Stampeders first game of the season this past weekend and Michel gave him the job of bringing his ring back to him. 

In two years in the CFL, Michel made a name for himself, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns. He had so much success, it wasn’t easy to leave. 

“I kind of felt like I had a good situation up there in Canada,” Michel said. 

Back to the NFL 

Michel didn’t tell anyone when he signed with the Eagles. His family — Sony and Pinder, included — found out when the Eagles announced it on Twitter. 

Pinder said he knew Michel had a couple workouts, but he didn’t know how they went. When confronted by his brother via text, Michel simply texted back a smiling emoji. 

“I’m real low key,” Michel said. “I don’t like the spotlight.”

But he found it this spring. Michel has emerged as a real contender to steal one of the final roster spots at receiver for the Eagles. In the absence of a few starters at OTAs and minicamp, Michel even got some first-team reps and worked well with Carson Wentz.  

If things don’t pan out with the Eagles, Michel could probably go back to Canada and resume what was already a promising career, but he’s trying not to think about that or anything aside from giving this chance everything he has. 

But he is well aware the Eagles play the Patriots this season. If he makes the team, little brother will be waiting.

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Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

Eagles have intriguing depth at WR beyond Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have three pretty darn good wide receivers in Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor.

That’s probably the best three-deep depth chart the Eagles have ever had at receiver and no doubt one of the best in the NFL.

But they’ll keep at least five. Last year, they kept six — Jeffery, Agholor, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter. So there’ll be a tremendous amount of competition this summer, and it’s going to be fascinating to watch.

The Eagles will probably also draft a receiver, and that could come fairly early. With the draft a week and a half away, here’s a look at what the Eagles have beyond the Big Three.

2017 draft picks

Mack Hollins

Hollins, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina, did some good things as a rookie, with 16 catches for 226 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown against the Redskins and some excellent work on special teams.

Hollins missed all of last year with a mysterious groin injury that wasn’t considered serious during the preseason, but he’s got great size at 6-4, 220, and got a lot of good experience as a rookie, so he’s probably most likely at this point to be the fourth wideout.

Shelton Gibson

A fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, Gibson has only three catches to show for two NFL seasons. It was kind of odd last year that he caught a 48-yarder against the Vikings, then got just 12 snaps on offense the rest of the year and was never targeted again.

Gibson also played less and less on special teams as last year went on, which isn’t a good sign. 

Futures contracts

Braxton Miller

A really intriguing prospect, and the Eagles seem to like the former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist who converted to wideout. Miller spent all last year on the practice squad, so the Eagles know how athletic he is. 

Miller caught 34 passes in two seasons with the Texans. He’s only 26, he’s played at the highest level in college, and he knows this offense now. Keep an eye on him in camp.

Carlton Agudosi

Agudosi, a former Rutgers receiver from Franklin Township High in Somerset County, New Jersey, split the 2017 season on the Cards’ active roster and practice squad but was out of football last year.

He didn’t play a lot in college, but at 6-6, 220, he’s got unusual size and that could get him a good look this summer.

Johnny Holton

Holton played at Cincinnati before bouncing on and off the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad as both a receiver and cornerback. 

Now 27, Holton has only 11 career catches but three of them have gone for 44 or more yards, all from Derek Carr in 2017. Interesting speed prospect.

Dorren Miller

Raw prospect who played at JUCO Georgia Military College and Division II Carson-Newman, Miller ran a 4.39 coming out of school, which opened a lot of eyes. 

He was in camp last year with the Jaguars and then spent all year on the practice squad. 

Marken Michel 

Michel was in camp with the Vikings in 2016 and then spent three seasons in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders, catching 72 passes for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.

His brother is Patriots running back Sony Michel.

AAF refugees

Greg Ward Jr.

Ward remains an intriguing prospect. Former Houston quarterback who led the Cougars to a Peach Bowl win over No. 9 Florida State, he’s three years into his conversion as a wide receiver.

Ward, still only 23, got a Super Bowl ring with the Eagles in 2017 as a member of the practice squad but was released after camp last year and didn’t get a job until the AAF came along. He caught 22 passes for 214 yards playing for the San Antonio Commanders before the league was disolved earlier this month.

Charles Johnson

CJ2 was a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2013 and is 30 years old, so kind of unusual for a camp body. 

He bounced around with the Packers, Browns, Vikings, Panthers and Jets, piling up 60 catches for 834 yards and two TDs in three seasons in Minnesota.

Johnson spent this past winter with the Orlando Apollos of the AAF, where he caught 45 passes for 687 yards. In a game against the Commanders, he had seven catches for 192 yards and a touchdown from Apollos QB Garrett Gilbert.

Keep an eye on Johnson. The Eagles gave him a $25,000 workout bonus, which is a sign that they really wanted him.

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