Why Eagles' sixth-round pick nearly walked away from football


Grant Calcaterra began his new life.

Back in 2020, the former Oklahoma tight end was working construction as he moved toward becoming a fireman in Southern California. After EMT and fire technology school, he began to apply for firefighter jobs in Los Angeles and San Diego.

Then he saw the 2020 NFL Draft.

And as he watched several tight ends get picked, he thought to himself — I’m just as good as these guys.

“A couple months after that I just decided to go for it,” Calcaterra said last Saturday, minutes after the Eagles drafted him in the sixth round of the 2022 draft.

“I thought to myself, you can only have one shot to go to the NFL, and I can't decide to go to the NFL at 30 years old halfway through my fire year. So, I decided just to go for it, and it worked out in a good way for me.”

This week, he’s been at the NovaCare Complex with the rest of the Eagles’ rookies, happy he came back to the sport he loves. On Friday, it was clear that Calcaterra is ready to stop talking about his concussions.

Calcaterra began his college football career at Oklahoma but suffered what he said were a couple minor concussions and played in just five games in 2019. That was enough to scare him out of the game for an entire season.

But even as he pursued a career as a fireman, he thought about football. He worked out with his brother in his family garage with the thought of possibly returning one day. In 2021, the 6-3, 241-pound Calcaterra went to SMU for his senior season and had a good year in a high-powered passing attack, catching 38 passes for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Calcaterra, 23, knows there are risks associated with playing football, especially given his history of concussions, but he’s willing to accept those risks.

“Ultimately my passion for the game, my love for the game, the identity I put myself being a football player, overruled that,” he said. “Everybody has injuries, things that will bother you later in life, but I'm willing to take that risk.

“Every doctor I met with was also OK with me taking that risk. So, I'm excited to be back doing what I love.”

Calcaterra said of all the doctors he spoke to, none told him he needed to stop playing football. At the time in 2020, he decided the risk wasn’t worth it. Now, he thinks it is.

And with the blessing of the doctors he met with, Calcaterra is back on his journey as a football player.

In addition to Calcaterra, the Eagles also selected Nakobe Dean in the third round. Both players came into the weekend with some legitimate medical concerns but the Eagles’ medical staff OK’d both picks.

“We have a lot of faith in our medical staff,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “They are the experts in that. They passed him.”

So the Eagles drafted him.

Maybe Calcaterra will be a fireman one day. But the Eagles are hoping that day doesn’t come anytime soon.

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