In May, Alex Singleton took a break from Eagles OTAs to travel to Canada. The linebacker is fighting for a roster spot here in Philadelphia, but north of the border, he’s a bona-fide star returning for the Grey Cup ring ceremony with the CFL champion Calgary Stampeders.
Now he’s hoping it will be quite some time before there’s a professional reason to go back.
Singleton had a career in the CFL. In three short seasons, he was a two-time All-Star, the Most Outstanding Defensive Player for 2017 and a champion.
And he left it all behind for another shot at the NFL, where he bounced between three different teams in one year as an undrafted free agent in 2015.
“You want to prove to yourself, prove to everybody that you can do it, that you can do the same thing no matter where you are,” Singleton said.
He was walking off the practice field after an especially hot day at Eagles training camp, though not before putting in an extra 15 minutes of work. It was “love of the game” that led Singleton to sign a futures contract with the Eagles in January — clearly, because he requested his release from the Stampeders, who no doubt would’ve preferred the heart of their defense take a long-term extension.
But this isn’t some pipe dream. CFL players transition to the NFL with some regularity, and Singleton is 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, with athleticism that is noticeable on the practice field. He spent time with the Seahawks, Patriots and Vikings during his first NFL season and was a collegiate standout at Montana State, a Division I-FCS program.
Perhaps Singleton was simply overlooked trying to make the jump from a small school to some deep pro rosters.
“What I’ve learned over time is that you’ve gotta be able to do everything as an undrafted guy, a second-chance guy,” Singleton said. “It’s not gonna be easy and no one’s gonna give you a step up. You’ve gotta work for that step, and I’ve learned how to do that as a pro.”
In the Eagles, Singleton chose a team in which he has a legitimate shot to simultaneously develop and contribute immediately.
The starting linebacker jobs for ‘19 likely belong to Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill, with either Zach Brown, L.J. Fort or Nathan Gerry (or some combination of the three) filling out the base defense. Singleton is definitely in the mix for a roster spot though based in part on his special teams prowess.
In addition to 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and nine pass breakups, Singleton recorded 17 special teams tackles for Calgary. And because the CFL plays three downs, as opposed to the traditional four in the NFL, he has more experience in the kicking phases than a typical prospect.
“It’s huge,” Singleton said. “That’s what you learn in the CFL because with a three-down game, special teams is a true third of the game. It almost is bigger than offense and defense in some games.
“In the NFL, I don’t know if it’s a full third of the game, but it’s definitely important and it could win or lose games.”
This is Singleton’s first year in a new defense, so expectations for this season may not get much higher than that. If for whatever reason things don’t work out with the Eagles though, or in the NFL period, he has options.
“I had to take the opportunity still being young, only being 25 and my fifth year being a pro,” Singleton said. “Canada, it’s still there for me. I can always go back, but if I would’ve signed another contract up there, in three years at 28, I wouldn’t be able to have this opportunity.”
No matter what transpires, Singleton — a native of Thousand Oaks, California, just outside Los Angeles — is confident he made the right decision to return to the states.
Just don’t mistake Singleton for creating an out or setting easily attainable goals. He went to Canada to make a name for himself, but he beat the odds while there and became a great player overnight.
What’s preventing him from doing the same for the Eagles?
“You want to be a starter, be an All-Pro player, win a Super Bowl,” Singleton said. “I don’t think you should be out here unless those are your objectives.
“If you just put minimal goals on yourself in the long run, you’ll shoot yourself in the foot. I think big picture. Shoot for the stars.”
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