One thing is certain for Kyle Eckel. Whether or not he survives the final cut on Saturday and makes either the 53 man roster or the practice squad, he knows he gave it his best shot.
The 5'11, 244-pound fullback and former Navy Midshipman has made the most of his time with the New England Patriots. Since the Pats signed Eckel as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2005 NFL Draft on April 26, the twenty-four year old workhorse has performed beyond expectations in an attempt to make the team and show that he does have upside in the NFL.
In only three rushing attempts on one drive late in the fourth quarter of the Patriots first preseason game against Cincinnati, Eckel made himself noticed. From four yards out, Eckel pushed his way into the endzone for his first professional points. A week later against New Orleans, Eckel again found the endzone in one of only three carries. He was producing every time he was given a chance. Eckel was excited about his first score, but knew he needed to do more to impress the coaching staff.
"It was exciting [to score the touchdown], but I got to work on my game. I have a lot of work to do and just keep learning from the coaches and the backs and hopefully get better."
In preseason games two and three against Green Bay and the Giants, the Patriots coaching staff gave Eckel the ball more to see what he could do. Eckel ran for 33 yards on 4 carries against Green Bay and 34 yards on 10 carries against the Giants for an average of 5.5 yards per carry in two games.
Fullback Kyle Eckel #39 of the New England Patriots is stopped by the defense of the New York Giants during their preseason game Sep 1, 2005
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Expectations were limited for Eckel coming into mini camp back in early June. Many saw him as a back with little potential in the NFL. Eckel was a longshot to make the team, and even if he did earn a spot, he would have work out a situation where he could remain committed to the service and play for the Patriots. In that situation, Eckel could be called to service at any moment.
"I mean it's really not up to me. Whoever is making the decision, whatever they say is what you gotta do."
For Eckel, a chance to play for the Super Bowl Champions was certainly a dream, one that he was quick to defend when asked if it would be possible for him to play while in the service.
"I don't want to say [that I couldn't play.] Anything is possible.
While I'm here I'm not trying to burn any bridges so I want to do well here and hopefully have a spot here if and when I can play."
Eckel rushed for 1,249 yards as a junior, the sixth highest season total in Navy history. His 2,906 career yards at Navy rank fourth. Despite his accomplishments as one of Navy's best running backs ever, Eckel is aware that his work ethic is key to his success at the professional level.
"Yea you know I'm just trying to work hard, learn from the coaches and help out."
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's cuts, Eckel is prepared to move forward. With the service or with the Patriots, Eckel will have a job to do.
"Ya I'm prepared [either way]. I went to Naval Academy for four years and I'm used to a little bit of pressure, as far people you know directing me, telling me what to do and being on my toes at every second. So ya it's something I expected, something I knew when I came out here, something I knew I was getting involved in, and the possibility of leaving at any time, so ya I'm ready."
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