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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) —Eagles’ training camp is a week old under Chip Kelly and there’s been one constant every day after the final whistle blows ending practice: That’s rookie fifth-round draft pick Earl Wolff taking extra reps, catching passes, honing footwork, sharpening technique.
The 6-foot, 207-pound strong safety out of North Carolina State foresees a role in the Eagles’ 2013 patchwork secondary, possibly replacing projected starter Patrick Chung or spelling free safety and oft-injured Kenny Phillips. The Eagles weren’t obviously too pleased with Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, after last year, replacing them with Chung and Phillips.
Since Brian Dawkins has left, the Eagles have been sorely missing that hammer in the secondary, that intimidator that causes opposing receivers to think a little when they’re running down field. That enforcer who likes contact—and can deliver the kind of impacting blows that changes the course of games (think Dawkins nailing Alge Crumpler in the 2004 NFC Championship).
Wolff would like to change all of that. He was a human torpedo as a second-team All-ACC defensive back last season for the Wolfpack, leading them with 119 tackles, and intercepting two passes.
“This is a great spot here and my goal is to take advantage of every opportunity that I can get,” said Wolff, whose mother, Sharon, grew up in North Philadelphia and he’s been able to stay with relatives during OTAs and training camp. “My goal is to be perfect, and I know that I’m not going to be, but I want to take advantage of every rep that I get. And just get better every day.
“It’s all about hard work. It’s why I come back after practice every day. It’s hard work that got me here. There some jobs open here, and everyone is very open for competition. As you can see, me and Kurt were working out here [after practice] and we’re competing against each other. It’s all about competing and the best man gets the job.”
Wolff considers himself a physical player. He believes in the Kelly mantra of “playing fast,” which Wolff also feels has contributed to where he is.
Wolff hasn’t played defensive back that long. He was a star tailback for Hoke County High School (N.C.), before he was recruited as an athlete by the Wolfpack.
“I played running back my whole life, but played a little bit of defense toward the end of high school,” Wolff said. “I got to college, I haven’t been a defensive back that long. I keep it basic. I see ball, get ball. That’s how I am. I’m a hitter. I like hitting.”
Wolff, however, has been confronted with one slight problem since making the step into the NFL. That’s been the proper spelling of his last name. It is ‘Wolff,’ with two ‘Fs.’ But it’s been spelled with an ‘e’ at the end, and sometimes with one ‘f.’
“There’s been small typos, and I don’t know where that comes from, I know my pro day N.C. State gave us shirts to wear and they put ‘e’ in the back of Wolff,” he said, laughing. “They had it Wolfe. I’m Earl Wolff IV. I was N.C. State for four years, and they gave me a typo on pro day. As long as it’s spelled right on the back of my jersey, I’ll be okay.”
When he starts laying people out, like he did last year to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, there’s a good chance anyone will be misspelling Wolff’s name.
“Tajh knows how to spell Wolff,” the rookie safety said, laughing. “He should know.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.