A few weeks ago, before the Eagles played their first preseason game, I asked a bunch of veterans on the team to give me a name of one of their younger teammates who they were eager to see play (see story).
Fletcher Cox, looking down at his phone, didn't hesitate.
As soon as he heard the question, he popped up his head and named Bruce Hector, the relatively unknown undrafted defensive tackle.
Turns out, Cox was right.
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Because just a few weeks later, I think it's pretty clear Hector is going to make the Eagles' 53-man roster (see 53-man projection).
"He's impressed us all along the way," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "But I think the thing that's been most impressive is that there's a lot of guys that look good early and then they level out, or they fade, or they can't stay healthy, or they plateau and they just don't improve, [but] that's not Bruce. Bruce impressed us early, but going on he has steadily improved. And he's been on the field and he's healthy enough to be on the field.
"Then in the last couple games, particularly in the last game, we got him some reps up against some better players and some better competition. He responded well. Those are all things you look for. He's on the right track."
Go ahead and read between the lines there. It certainly seems like Hector is on the squad.
Making the team
While a lot of Eagles fans are probably just learning about Hector, the $60,000 in guarantees the Eagles gave him shows they had a hunch about his chances to make the team. But he still had to put in the work, and he has.
It's probably a really good sign for Hector that he quickly overtook last year's sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls on the depth chart and has been working with the second team for a long time. Because Tim Jernigan (back) is still out, there's added opportunity, not just for Hector to make the team, but to play. After Cox, Haloti Ngata and Destiny Vaeao, it seems like Hector is the frontrunner to win the fourth job and defy the odds.
Defying the odds isn't anything new to Hector.
Coming out of high school in Florida, he was a two-star guy and the University of South Florida gave him his only big-time offer. In his three years at USF, Hector piled up 18 sacks, but still didn't get an invite to the combine and didn't hear his name called during the draft.
"Growing up, you hope for that, you wish for that," Hector said about possibly getting drafted. "It is what it is. I'm just going to keep grinding hard, working hard because, after the draft, everybody is in the same position. Everybody on a team is in the same position as everybody else. You just have to continue to work hard and make the team."
One of the first things Cox mentioned about Hector is that he listens. That's so important for a rookie. Just come, work hard and keep your mouth shut. When a rookie doesn't do that, it's hard for him to overcome that, especially if the talent isn't overwhelming.
But from everything we know of Hector, he's very coachable. That's particularly important for a guy trying to make the team after going undrafted.
After getting 18 sacks in three seasons at USF - a high total for an interior lineman - Hector thinks he's a natural fit in Schwartz's attack defense. That's part of the reason Hector decided to come to Philly. The Birds' winning the Super Bowl and seemingly having a deep defensive line didn't deter him either.
"Why not come here?" he asked. "Work hard and make the team."
It looks like that's exactly what happened. It might be time for Eagles fans to learn one of their newest players.