Maehl always thought about reunion with Kelly

Maehl always thought about reunion with Kelly

August 13, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Jeff Maehl had 77 catches, 1,076 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior year playing for Chip Kelly at Oregon. (USA Today Images)

It reminds him of Eugene, Oregon: same practice style, similar meeting format and the nutrition program seems to be identical.

Jeff Maehl walked out of the locker room to address the media wearing Nike shorts, shoes and a golf hat.

The only difference about the setting and his attire now contrary to three years ago is the coast he calls home and the NFL long-sleeve shirt he donned. Maehl, who played under Chip Kelly at Oregon from 2007 to 2010, rejoined his college coach after being dealt from the Texans to the Eagles on Monday (see story).

"It's crazy man. It's crazy that my journey's come here with Chip," Maehl said. "Hopefully I can go out there, help my team out and earn the respect of my new teammates.”

Maehl didn't practice Tuesday because Nate Menkin, who the Eagles shipped to Houston, still needs to pass a physical.

The former Duck went undrafted in 2011 and spent his time afterward with the Texans’ practice squad and special teams. He didn't catch a pass with Houston. Maehl said his primary goal for the past two years has been to latch on with Houston and make the roster. But as opportunities with the Texans dwindled, the thought of reuniting with Kelly never left Maehl's consciousness.

"Of course if you play for a guy and he goes to the NFL you think about, 'Hey it would be cool to go play for him again,'" Maehl said. “In my situation in Houston I was grinding to make that team, and that was my number one priority, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind that if I didn't get an opportunity there that maybe Chip would give me one. I was a little shocked that it happened this early, but like I said, I'm happy to be here."

To say the 6-foot pass catcher had success in Eugene would be an understatement.

Maehl was Kelly's most prolific wideout in the coach's tenure at Oregon, amassing 2,311 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns in four seasons. That includes his senior campaign that saw Maehl put up video game numbers -- 77 catches, 1,076 yards, 12 touchdowns and an 81-yard snag in the BCS National Championship game.

But if you ask Kelly, Maehl brings more than just stat sheet-filling potential.

"Jeff came to Oregon as a safety and we moved him because of injuries to receiver, but he’s got kind of a defensive back mentality. He’s had games where he caught a 70-yard touchdown pass and then on the next play, on the kickoff, made the tackle on the 10-yard line," Kelly said. "That versatility, the ability to help on [special] teams, the ability to play both inside receiver and outside receiver, he’s got some physicality to him, he’s got really good hands so hopefully we can get him up to speed pretty quickly."

Maehl admitted that special teams is a reason why he's here in Philadelphia.

Of course, the losses at wide receiver -- Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn both out for the year -- factors into the move. But Maehl got his start at Oregon on special teams, and he realized in Houston that working on kickoff and punt returns could catapult him to a sustainable NFL career.

"When I went up to Oregon I was a safety coming out of high school,” Maehl said, “and I got moved over [to wide receiver] at the end of my freshman year. I started out there getting on the field as a special teams player.

"Special teams is a big part of my part in the league in general. I know that I'm not going to be a No. 1 receiver probably in this league."

Maehl is, however, listed as a wide receiver, so learning the offense is a challenge he'll need to overcome. Granted, the offense is vastly similar to the one Maehl played in Oregon, but not everything is the same. Kelly said the terminology is slightly different so "trying to bridge that gap" will be a test.

"Knowing the offense definitely helps. He's changed a lot of the terminology and some of the signals and stuff like that,” Maehl said. “With me being in a different system the past couple of years, it's going to take me a little while to get back into the groove of it. It's kind of like learning a new language."

And even though his old college coach brought him in, Maehl knows nothing is a sure thing with the Eagles.

"Knowing Chip isn't going guarantee me a spot on this team whatsoever," Maehl said. "I've got to go out and earn it."