Philadelphia Eagles

Howie Roseman's unusual words of encouragement for Eli Ricks

"I held onto that the whole time during camp," Eli Ricks said of a message he received from Howie Roseman.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Howie Roseman knew before training camp even started.

He knew Eli Ricks had something special. Special enough to make the 53-man roster of a Super Bowl team as an undrafted rookie cornerback.

And he made that clear early on to the 21-year-old Southern California native.

“Howie told me when I first got here, 'There should be no reason why you shouldn't make the 53,'” Ricks said after practice Thursday.

“And I held onto that the whole time during camp, during this whole process, even when I had some doubts. I knew what he told me at the start of the camp and I just kept that.”

Ricks did make the Eagles as the only undrafted rookie on the 53-man roster. It was the culmination of months of hard work as he tried to prove that the disappointing end to his college career wasn’t really who he was.

Ricks was the top high school corner in the U.S. coming out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in the fall of 2019 and was a freshman All-America when he had four interceptions at LSU in 2020. But he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury midway through 2021 and transferred to Alabama, where he started only five games before declaring for the draft.

As late as May of 2022, Todd McShay projected Ricks as the 10th player in the 2023 draft, ahead of Bijan Robinson, Devon Witherspoon, Paris Johnson Jr., and numerous other big-time prospects.

But the draft came and went and Ricks’ name was never called.

“He was the No. 1 corner in the country coming out of high school and going to LSU," Roseman said. "Then he didn't have his last season that he wanted to (at Alabama). He had a lot of adversity as a guy who really thought he would be a high pick (but) came in with the right attitude.”

Ricks did not have a slam-dunk training camp. He really didn’t show up in a big way until the Ravens preseason game, when he had a 31-yard pick-6 off Anthony Brown and followed that up with a lunging pass breakup on the Ravens’ next series.

That really helped him turn the corner and he finished the preseason strong.

“I came in with the mindset, ‘When I get in, I have to make a play,'” he said. “I just knew when the game times were coming and the game situation would come, that's when I expected to show my best. What I was worried about was would I be able to show my ability because I'm not the first guy going out there on the field. I knew when I got in the game I was going to have an opportunity and I took it.

“I knew I wanted to make a big play and I had to stand out, especially being an undrafted guy. I always want to pick everything but I knew my opportunities would be slim so I knew I needed something to stick.”

Ricks sure looks the part of an NFL cornerback. Tall, long and athletic. With tons of swagger.

Because of his background, the Eagles knew they couldn’t sneak him through waivers, so he became one of seven corners – three of them undrafted – on the final roster.

“You saw ball skills,” said Mario Goodrich, another one of the Eagles’ young undrafted corners. “Him putting his hands on guys. Tenacity. You know, he's a dog. He's aggressive. He's got that little chip on his shoulder. As a corner you've got to have some type of chippiness. So that's what I like.”

Ricks and all the young corners were the beneficiary of the generosity that Darius Slay and James Bradberry show to all the new guys. That’s a big part of the culture that’s been in place here for years, that the veterans help the young players – even though those young players are here to eventually replace them.

“They've been really good players in this league for a long time,” Ricks said. “I've watched them before I came here a lot. Really great cornerbacks so I'm just asking them little things, like I asked Bradbury the other day what's your workout routine? Post practice, before practice, what do you do throughout the week? Little stuff like that. 

“And I barely even asked them questions. They're just telling me stuff most of the time. And when I do need to ask a question, they're always there.”

Ricks is the latest in a long line of undrafted rookies to make the Eagles, but he knows that making the 53 and staying there are two different things.

This isn’t the end of the journey, it’s the beginning.

“Yeah, I have to do more,” he said. “All the things I've been doing to get here, I've got to do even more now and I've got to keep building. 

“I think the player that everybody's seen is not even close to the ceiling that I have and I feel like I'm only getting better and I'm not close to that ceiling at all.”

Subscribe to Eagle Eye anywhere you get your podcasts: 
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube

Contact Us