Underdogs of the Eagles: Rasul Douglas

By: Jesse Larch, Sports Talk Philly editor 

Leading up to the Eagles playing the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII on February 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 rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas.

High School and College Career

Rasul Douglas grew up in East Orange, New Jersey as one of seven siblings. Douglas grew up playing baseball, and even back in little league he possessed an impressive work ethic. "Rasul would be the first one to say, ‘I can do it again, Coach. I can do it again,’ " said Douglas's youth baseball coach Mike Davis.

When Douglas made the jump to football in high school,  it was his longtime baseball coach who continued to keep an eye on Douglas. "He was the one who took me off of the streets," said Douglas of Davis. 

Douglas's high school football career generated some Division I interest, but instead he opted to go to junior college to develop his skills further. 

NAssau Community College did not have accommodations for students so Douglas grinded out a tough year, living eight miles from campus, using public transportation to reach campus, and going without food in order to achieve his goal. 

"I’m going to school and I haven’t really ate so, you can’t even think straight some times. And then you have to work out, and you’re hungry because you haven’t eaten. But I knew. I knew it would all work out one day. I just had to keep believing and working every day."

Douglas would get his nutrition off of the McDonald's dollar menu, and portion whatever he could afford to last him a number of days. 

"Every time I eat, I always think I’m making up for a meal I missed in junior college. I knew I did all of that work for something. The goal was to be here one day. So, I just put in the time and the work hoping it would pay off. At the end of the day the hard work, the sacrifices allowed me to get here."

Douglas's three seasons at Nassau Community College turned into an opportunity to play for a power-five Division I school in West Virginia. 

Douglas played sparingly in his first season at West Virgnia as a redshirt junior, but immediately felt a difference in his new surroundings. 

"When I got to West Virginia it was great. At a Division I school you have all the pieces you need. They’re there for you. It’s on you, if you want to be successful, not just with football, but if you want to do well, they’ll make sure you do. I had a tutor if I needed one for school. I mean, I didn’t really have to worry about anything, I just had to keep working hard."

Douglas's hard work paid off in his final season of collegiate eligibility. Douglas would lead the nation in interceptions in 2016 with eight and added eight pass breakups, 70 tackles and a sack. Douglas earned First-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior, putting an exclamation point on his tough journey through the collegiate ranks. 

2017 Rookie Year with the Eagles

Douglas was a part of perhaps the deepest cornerback class in NFL Draft history in 2017, but he still managed to be taken in the third round with the 99th overall selection when then-Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos stepped up to the mic and announced that the Eagles were using their third round selection on him. 

Eagles' defensive backs coach Corey Undlin spent time with Douglas at West Virginia and came away impressed. "A very humble guy. He’s got one thing on his mind right now, and that’s to be the best player he can be. I got that from him right away when I met with him at West Virginia," said Undlin. 

The impression that Douglas made on Undlin no doubt played a role in the Eagles' decision to select him. 

Douglas made the Eagles' 53-man roster to open the season, but was inactive for the team's first game of the season against the Washington Redskins. The following week Douglas stepped in for an injured Jaylen Watkins and led the team with six tackles. 

The following week Douglas would step in and start against the New York Giants. Douglas made an impact on the game by high-pointing a ball against Brandon Marshall and coming down with his first interception. 

Douglas had a productive rookie season, playing in 14 games for the Eagles and collecting 25 tackles, two interceptions, and 11 passes defensed. His 11 defensed passes ranked third on the team. 

Douglas has not left those that got him here behind. When he was preparing to hear his name called at the 2017 NFL draft he had a modest gathering with family and close friends instead of throwing a big party. Among those in attendance was Davis. When Douglas was selected he gave his family big hugs and Davis recalled it feeling like "winning a Super Bowl."

Now just 10 months later, Douglas has a chance to really find out what it feels like to win a Super Bowl.