Some called it the "catch of the year." In one moment during an FCS quarterfinal against Sam Houston State, Montana State wide receiver Elvis Akpla put his name in the football pantheon with a play that you have to see to believe:
More than the wow factor, the catch demonstrated some pro-quality skills—body control and great hands among them—that might have put him on the radar of any teams that didn't know his name before the play. If the Philadelphia Eagles looked into Akpla because of the catch, they liked what they saw upon a closer look even more than the highlight reel.
Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Philadelphia Eagles "seemed to fall in love with him when they scouted him." According to Carpenter, they fell for him hard enough that they were the only team that sent Akpla a letter saying they would love to sign him if he went undrafted.
Akpla did go undrafted and the Eagles did sign him. How did a player capable of such a spectacular play fall out of the draft? Akpla actually started out at Oregon on a track scholarship, but he didn't like the repetitiveness of the sport, according to Carpenter. He joined the scout team at Oregon and honed his game, but was ruled ineligible to play because of his track scholarship. Akpla moved on to Montana State when he didn't get a football scholarship at Oregon after quitting the track team to become eligible to play for the Ducks.
Akpla didn't dominate at Montana State, and his draft trainer, Tom Shaw, thinks he should have, although it might not have been Akpla's fault. Shaw told Carpenter than other factors might have been to blame.
The trainer liked Akpla's speed on the field, which is said was better than his timed speed (a 4.53 40 at his pro day, according to NFL Draft Scout). Carpenter also reported that Shaw complimented Akpla's ability to pick up concepts and that Akpla was usually the second or third player to show up every morning, beaten only by Seattle first-round pick Bruce Irvin.
Akpla is willing to work, he's intelligent (a cell biology and neuroscience major with designs on medical school, according to Montana State's official site) and he's got upside as a late comer to football.
The Eagles are well-stocked at wide receiver, and Akpla's best bet is to make the team's practice squad. In other words, his odds of making the Eagles are about as long as the odds that he would come down with that ball against Sam Houston State. I'd imagine he'll take that.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!