Reaching the NFL is a major step for athletes that dream of playing professional football but remaining in the league is beyond difficult. Out of the 1,600 players that are eligible to join NFL rosters every season – fewer than 300 players make the grade.
It’s a cut-throat business and why players that have cultivated lengthy NFL careers deserve a great deal of respect, especially the ones that force their way into recognition after setbacks. No player has epitomized this more than Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton. At the age of 26, he has broken into the NFL and remained a key cog of the NFC East outfit’s defense.
It was not always the case, and Singleton was forced to battle his way back after going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was then released by the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Minnesota Vikings before making his journey into the CFL. There the former Montana State Bobcat made his name and developed the traits that would allow him to return to the pinnacle of the sport.
Excelling In The CFL
After failing to catch on to a roster in the 2015 NFL campaign, Singleton was drafted in the first round of the 2016 CFL Draft with the sixth selection by the Calgary Stampeders. He had a solid first season, but it was not noteworthy enough to capture the attention of lurking NFL sides in the following campaign. As a result, Singleton embarked on another season with the Stampeders. On this occasion, he was nothing short of outstanding. In 18 games, the linebacker racked up 123 tackles on defense, four sacks, and one interception. Singleton was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award, along with earning an All-Star berth. However, he and the Stampeders were beaten in the Grey Cup by the Toronto Argonauts.
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Singleton once again failed to attract NFL attention but was not deterred and returned for another crack at Grey Cup glory. The linebacker was at the forefront of another charge to the post-season, recording another 123 tackles and two forced fumbles. He was named a CFL All-Star for the second year on the bounce and this time, Singleton was part of a winning effort in the 106th Grey Cup as Calgary overcame the Ottawa Redblacks. It would be Singleton’s final act with the Stampeders as finally, the NFL came calling and he signed a free-agent deal with the Eagles.
Beating The Odds
Singleton competed well in his first training camp with the Eagles, but even after impressing in four pre-season matches, he failed to make the 53-man roster. The 26-year-old was signed to the practice squad where he bided his time until being called onto the active roster in October. He fared well enough in his roles on special teams and defense to remain there until the end of the campaign, impressing general manager Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson. As a result of his performances and growth during the off-season, Singleton has carved out a role in Jim Schwartz’s defense in the middle of the unit.
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He has played in all five matches to date in the 2020 campaign, although the Eagles are struggling in their bid to win the NFC East, being backed at +120 as of 14th October to triumph in the division in the outright markets at Betway. Singleton has played a role in keeping them in contention, racking up eight tackles. However, his most important contribution came in a week four win over the San Francisco 49ers, intercepting a pass from quarterback Nick Mullens and returning it for a touchdown, per Penn Live. In a 25-20 win for the Eagles, Singleton’s first NFL score was the decisive moment in the contest. All eyes will be on him to see if he can continue to make plays for Philadelphia in their bid to overhaul the Dallas Cowboys, and perhaps then the 26-year-old could yet earn a second contract.
It will be a struggle, especially in a position where rookies can arrive in the NFL and thrive. Singleton will not only be battling against opposing teams but also upstarts from the college ranks, who could supplant him from his position. The story is encouraging for all players attempting to make the grade in the NFL that has been cast adrift either in the CFL or elsewhere – where winning a future Grey Cup or becoming a potent force north of the border can make all the difference. It will be all the sweeter for Singleton should he make it a lengthy career at the highest level.