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August 06, 2019

Big Ten experience will serve Eagles rookies Miles Sanders, Shareef Miller well in preseason debut

Advice from Nick Foles inspires another Eagles rookie before Thursday's game.

Eagles NFL

Eagles 2019 draft picks Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, Shareef Miller, Clayton Thorson and JJ Arcegia-Whiteside will suit up for their first career NFL game — of any kind — Thursday at the Linc when the Titans come to town to open the preseason. And whether you're a first rounder or an undrafted rookie, it's a milestone. 

How does one overcome the jitters? You take advice from Nick Foles, of course.

"I read an article the other day," Thorson, who is fighting to make the 53-man roster after being picked in the fifth round said, "Foles was talking about how he stays in the moment in the fourth quarter. He's like, 'My dad taught me it's just all about what's happening right there.' Even though he's not here, it's about learning from those experiences."

For a rookie new to the NFL and to the city of Philadelphia, he sure made a veteran move by quoting Foles to media members at Eagles training camp.

While advice from Super Bowl MVP's may help some Eagles rookies, others are leaning on past experiences.

"My first game at Penn State, I think I had two sacks. I was nervous, anxious, a new guy playing at Penn State in front of like 100,000 people," fourth round D-lineman Shareef Miller said. "This is going to be a different feeling, playing in the NFL for my favorite team growing up… I am not going to be nervous now, just ready to compete. These are the big leagues."

Added Miller, when asked if he was ready to hit someone (who wasn't one of his teammates) the rookie said "Hell yeah, definitely."

"Big Ten, I say Penn State alone got me ready," Miller's PSU teammate Miles Sanders said. "I don't think I'll ever play in front of 100,000 people ever again. It helped me pretty well — a lot of big-name schools that play each other every week."

The NFL, for all its faults, does ramp its rookies up to Week 1 pretty slowly and deliberately. From rookie camp to OTAs to training camp to the preseason and then finally, the regular season, players can come along gradually and get comfortable with playing football at the highest level.

But on Thursday night, there's no question it will be a little different for the rookies.

"I am excited, a little nervous. Everyone is a little nervous, but it's good nervous so who cares," Andre Dillard, the 22nd player taken back in April said. "The crowd noise, the whole sea of midnight green and white, it's really exciting. It's a good vibe."

And of course, playing in front of 40,000 fans Sunday night at the Linc during open practice helped get their feet wet too.

"It was awesome to go out there and get that experience before Thursday," Thorson said. "I think all the rookies, we talked about it, we were excited to get that chance Sunday."

As of Tuesday, there has been no decision made on whether Carson Wentz will appear in Thursday's game. And the NFL seems to be trending toward starters playing less and less — if at all — in the preseason. Which means that fans will need to get their fix from watching rookies like Thorson, Dillard, Miller and Sanders get their feet wet in the NFL.

Because it's at least a little more entertaining than watching Cody Kessler throw to Donnell Pumphrey over and over again in the meaningless fourth quarter.

MORE: Eagles player stock up / stock down media poll

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