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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