Quentin Gause thought his name would be called sometime draft weekend, but when the phone never rang, he didn't get disheartened. Instead, the Rutgers grad saw opportunity on the Eagles' depth chart.
Gause is one of 16 rookie free agents attempting to make the Eagles' 53-man roster in 2016, although he probably has a better shot than most being he's currently one of only eight linebackers on the squad. In fact, the 23-year-old sounds convinced he'll be left standing when the dust settles in September.
"I worked my butt off in college, and now it's my time to show them I can do it in the NFL," Gause said Friday at Eagles rookie minicamp. "This a great opportunity. I know I'm gonna make the team. That's my goal, and I'm just excited to go out to practice today."
Typically, only a handful of undrafted players make NFL rosters, especially as rookies. Fewer still go on to have long, successful careers. No matter how wide open the depth chart, Gause is fighting an uphill battle.
Even as a late-round pick, as Gause was hearing, he would've been facing long odds of making an impact in the league - yet you wouldn't know any of this from talking to him.
"It didn't happen," Gause said of being drafted, "but I've always had mentors like [retired NFL linebacker] Bart Scott, guys like that who weren't drafted that had phenomenal careers, so it doesn't matter.
"I know what I've gotta do. I'm on a mission, and a man on a mission you can't stop."
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A two-year starter at Rutgers, Gause finished his collegiate career with 223 tackles and 28.0 tackles for loss, earning an All-Big 10 honorable mention from the media his final season. In addition to on-field accomplishments, he was also voted to conference all-academic teams in 2013 and '14, and was named team captain as a senior.
While some prospects stand out more for their athletic prowess, the 6-foot, 243-pound Gause believes work ethic and football IQ are the attributes that will separate him from the pack.
"It's not just about being physical," Gause said. "It's being able to understand the scheme, understand the defense as a whole, not just my job, but knowing everybody else's job as well. That's gonna help me be able to make the team and be able to play further in this league."
The Eagles should carry at least six linebackers. Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham likely have starting jobs locked down, while Najee Goode is the lone seasoned backup on the roster. Gause is battling seventh-round pick Joe Walker, second-year veteran Deonate Skinner and fellow undrafted free agent Myke Tavarres for the other spots.
Those backup jobs will come down to more than just who can fill in on defense. Special teams contributions are imperative of all reserves - and yet another area where Gause believes he has a leg up on the competition.
"That's the most important thing in the league when you come in, special teams," Gause said. "I've done it since high school, in college I was on all four teams, so it's easy to me. Yeah, you've gotta work your butt off and go 100 percent on it, but I do that naturally. That's why in the NFL I'm definitely useful on special teams.
"I just love going hard, and it's fun to me. I love special teams."
Gause's intelligence and passion for the game are evident. Those are the types of players who tend to defy the odds against going undrafted and carve out their place in the NFL.
Drafted or not, the Eagles have roster spots up for grabs at linebacker, and Gause isn't the type of person who's going to be outworked or out-studied.