Ifeanyi Momah was humbled.
After being among the Eagles' final cuts last year, Momah is suiting up for his second attempt with the team with a new outlook.
“You go from having a lot of attention and doing well to not playing so well and you get cut,” Momah said after practice at minicamp last week. “Everybody forgets who you are, so it humbles you real quick.”
Momah was an intriguing prospect last year after the Eagles picked him up in March 2013 as an undrafted free agent. His size -- 6-foot-7 and 239 pounds -- was as huge of a talking point as he is. He towered over defenders and showed promise, but the wide receiver from Boston College didn't stand out enough in training camp to earn a roster spot.
“The one thing I remember [from last year] is being so tired -- getting acclimated to this pace, not only just the NFL level, but this offense,” Momah said.
He said he felt “dead-legged” and didn't have a grasp of Chip Kelly's scheme.
“I feel like I’m more comfortable going in and out of the routes and just overall receiving,” Momah said. “There’s a big difference from last year. I’m ready.”
Despite the departures of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, the numbers are still working against Momah, who left minicamp as one of 13 wideouts on the roster. Last year, the Eagles finished the season with six wide receivers on the roster. Veterans Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper and draft picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are likely locks for four of those spots. Momah's top competition comes from versatile veteran Brad Smith, a special teams standout who was signed during last season, and Arrelious Benn, a second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2010 whom the Eagles acquired via trade but missed last season with a torn ACL.
That said, the Eagles remain curious about Momah's upside. After cutting him last year, they told him they wanted him to return. He'd drawn interest from the Patriots and Steelers -- "The Steelers were always on me," he said -- but felt the Eagles were the best fit.
“They told me they wanted me here, but because they felt I wasn’t ready yet, they wanted to keep me around," he said.
"Nothing about Pittsburgh that wasn’t a fit. It was just I’m comfortable as a receiver here with the offense and also with the coaches."
So while he waited to return for another shot with the Eagles, Momah helped open a youth football camp in Long Island, where he's from, with friend James Brady, a quarterback from the University of New Hampshire. Brady played for Kelly at UNH, and working with him helped Momah improve.
"He knows his offense," Momah said of Brady. "Some days we go in and I’ll be running routes with him, cause he’s my quarterback, and he'll just throw up a sign and I'll know what it is and we’re running. It helps a lot."
As does something else. Like Cooper did last year, Momah has also discovered how to best use his most valuable asset: his physique.
“Last year I was playing down, as just a regular receiver, but now I’m trying to use my size,” Momah said. “If anybody’s around me, it doesn’t matter -- I’m the biggest guy out there.
“It’s kind of like basketball -- box them out, take the ball and stay up and score.”
Momah's attitude toward training camp has changed too. He admitted last year he sometimes tried to “just get through it." Now, he’s “out [there] to get better.”
“It’s a professional league,” Momah said. “They’re going to tell you what to do and if you don’t take it, listen and try to do it, then you’re going to get cut.”
Momah’s improved performance this time hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaches either.
"I think he feels more comfortable here. There's not a newness in terms of, 'This is not my first time doing this, and what does this look like, where am I supposed to be, how does that work?'" Kelly said. "We've seen a marked improvement from last year to this year."
During minicamp last Wednesday, Momah made a few good catches during drills that showcased the advantages of his size, even making an attempt to leap over a defender at an errant throw that sailed too high.
“I sat back a lot last year at home, thinking of all the things I could have done and all the things they told me to do that I didn’t,” he said. “I heard a couple of guys got re-signed and I was thinking to myself, ‘Why didn’t I get re-signed?’”
No more sitting back this time around.
“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Momah said. “I’m ready to take advantage of it and make the team this year.”