FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBS) — The Eagles wrap up the preseason on Thursday as they visit the New York Jets. While the final exhibition game is usually bereft of familiar names, it is a key contest when it comes to battles at the back end of the roster.
For the Jets, one of their tough decisions is for a final wide receiver spot, and a local college star is working hard to be the beneficiary of that decision.
Dan DePalma did it all at Division II West Chester University, and the Verona, NJ native signed with his hometown Jets after the lockout as a rookie free agent.
“It’s amazing just to be here and be a part of this organization,” he tells KYW Newsradio. “Rex Ryan is a great coach to play under, and the fact that it is close to home has just been a little added bonus, as my family and friends have been able to come and see me at practice and been a real help supporting me throughout this process.”
Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Dan DePalma in this CBS Philly SportsPod…
DePalma has really turned heads with the Jets in camp, and he says he is making sure to take it all in.
“Just trying to do my best out here and learn as much as I can,” he says. “It’s not very often you sit in a room with (fellow Jets receivers) Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, and Derrick Mason. So just to be in that room, learning, is more than I had ever expected.”
So how is a Division II prospect making so much noise on such a star-studded roster? His college coach, Bill Zwaan, says it’s because he brings an awful lot to the table.
“Athletically, he is in the mix with those guys. He may not be the best athlete or the fastest guy, but he can stay with everybody as far as his numbers are concerned — 40 time, jumping ability, and that type of thing.
“I think what’s going to be the difference… two things. One, he played defensive back here as a sophomore. So he will run down on the kickoff and make tackles — he’s been a defensive player. So that part helps him when he is competing against other wide receivers for that last spot and they may not have played defense, where he’s already got that in his repertoire. And the second thing is, he returns kicks and punts, so that’s a great value.”
And DePalma has gotten a shot in game action, returning both. He is averaging 12.8 yards on four punt returns and he has returned one kickoff for 23 yards.
So Thursday’s game against the Eagles could be a big one for DePalma, but he says it’s already been an incredible month for him.
“It’s a dream come true. You grow up watching these players. Even just to block for LaDainian Tomlinson and (Shonn) Greene, it’s just amazing. Just to be in the same room as them, learning and watching them play and learning all their techniques and their moves, to how to really play the game. They are very smart individuals, and to just pick up the little things that they do to make them better is unbelievable. I write down as much as I can just to learn from these guys. It’s been a real dream come true, and sometimes you just can’t believe you are on the same field playing with them.”
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060