Leading up to the Eagles playing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will be taking a look at the unsung players on the Eagles roster that have made their unlikely season and playoff run to the Super Bowl possible. This is Underdogs of the Eagles.
In this edition, we will focus on the unlikely hero at place kicker, Jake Elliott.
This underdog story actually begins before Jake Elliott’s college career. Because there almost was no college career and therefore no thoughts of the NFL.
Growing up, Elliott played baseball, basketball and tennis and continued his tennis career into high school, attending Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Il. An assistant coach for Lyons football team noticed his talent at a homecoming contest and during his junior year of high school, Elliott started his football career.
"We kind of said, 'Hey, if you ever want to play football, we'd love to have you.' Couple years later, as a junior, we were struggling in our kicking game to make extra points and field goals," Lyons head coach Kurt Weinberg said to WGN9.com. One of our coaches said, 'You know, Jake Elliott's over there on the tennis court. You want me to go get him?' I said, 'Sure.' He brought him over and he just right away starting crushing the ball. Few weeks later at our homecoming game he kicked a 52-yard field goal to win the game for us. Then, the very next week he kicked a 47-yarder -- both as time expired. If you wrote it as a fiction story, people wouldn't believe it."
He kicked a game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired in a game during his junior season and connected on 15 of 21 field goals in his senior season, earning a scholarship to the University of Memphis.
With Memphis, Elliott was instantly a starter as a freshman. He connected on 16 of 18 field goals in his freshman season, including setting a Memphis record with a 56-yard field goal, a record previously set by current Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. In his sophomore season, he connected on 21 of 32 field goals and was successful on all 57 extra points. He also kicked a 54-yard field goal in the Miami Beach Bowl that season, the fourth longest field goal in a bowl game.
Elliott continued his success in his junior season, connecting on 23 of 28 field goals and all 63 extra points. His season-long field goal of 53 yards came in the Birmingham Bowl.
In his senior season, he connected on 21 of 26 field goals and all 58 extra points. He also led the team in scoring for the fourth straight season and posted over 100 points for the third straight season, joining Gostkowski as the only other Memphis player to each achieve the feat. Elliott also broke the school’s all-time scoring record with 445 points and set the program’s made field goals mark with 81.
2017-18 Cincinnati Bengals Campaign
Following a very successful college career, Elliott entered the 2017 NFL Draft and was selected in the fifth round with the 153rd overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals, the first of three kickers to be taken in the draft that year. But that was ultimately as far as his professional career got with the Bengals.
He competed in training camp for the starting kicker job with Randy Bullock and lost out on the spot. He was waived and re-signed to the Bengals practice squad in early September.
2017-18 Philadelphia Eagles Campaign
Elliott’s Eagles career began nine days after he was re-signed as part of the Bengals practice squad. An injury to Caleb Sturgis forced the Eagles to conduct a search for a new kicker, and it was Elliott who was signed to join the Eagles, even as a relative unknown to the rest of the league, particularly in Philadelphia.
His first game with the Eagles came in Week 2 of the season against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was 2 of 3 on field goals and converted on both extra points.
The next week, in the Eagles home opener against the Giants, Elliott forever placed himself in Eagles history with a kick that ultimately may have changed the course of the season. Elliott had already kicked a game-tying field goal from 46 yards with 51 seconds left in the fourth quarter and had missed from 52 yards in the third quarter, so when the Eagles trotted Elliott out there to attempt a 61-yard field goal with one second left on the clock, it was a low-risk, high-reward chance. Miraculously, Elliott managed to boot the 61-yard kick through the uprights to give the Eagles the win, sending Lincoln Financial Field into bedlam.
The 61-yard field goal was the longest in Eagles history and set an NFL record for the longest field goal by a rookie kicker.
That kick elevated Elliott’s confidence from there. After missing two field goals in his first two games with the Eagles, Elliott missed just three field goals in the last 13 games of the regular season, finishing the year converting 26 of 31 field goals. He was also 39 of 42 on extra points for the season.
Elliott has remained clutch in the playoffs. He kicked three field goals in the Eagles 15-10 win over the Falcons, despite missing his only extra-point attempt, accounting for nine of the team’s points in the game. His first field goal from 53 yards also set an Eagles playoff record and an NFL playoff record for longest field goal by a rookie kicker. In Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, on his 23rd birthday no less, Elliott made a 38-yard field goal at time expired on the first half and converted on all five extra points as the Eagles marched on to Super Bowl LII.
From high school tennis player turned kicker to college standout to practice squad to the pinnacle of success in the NFL. In just over five years, Jake Elliott’s career has brought him to the Super Bowl.