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September 24, 2017

Jake Elliott goes kicking and screaming into Eagles' record book

There was some confusion when Jake Elliott first began walking through the Eagles’ locker room a few weeks ago. Some of his new teammates thought the 22-year-old, 5-foot-9, 167-pound rookie from Western Springs, Illinois, was a new equipment manager. Others thought he was one of the ball boys.

They joked with the former Cincinnati Bengals 2017 fifth-round draft pick out of Memphis, tapping him with the epithet “Doogie Howser.”

After Sunday, it’s safe to say all of his teammates know his name now – after Elliott booted an Eagles’ team-record 61-yard field goal all but vanquishing the New York Giants in a walkoff 27-24 victory at Lincoln Financial Field. The 61-yarder is tied as the seventh-longest field goal in NFL history – and surpassed Tony Franklin’s 59-yard boot, the Eagles’ previous record, in a 31-21 win in Dallas on November 12, 1979. 

Elliott was signed by the Eagles on Sept. 12 off the Bengals’ practice squad to replace kicker Caleb Sturgis, who was placed on injured reserve with a hip flexor injury suffered in the Eagles’ season opener at Washington.

In a matter of weeks, Elliott went from a disappointment to being mobbed after winning the Giants game, feted like a king, carried off the field on the shoulders of teammates Mychal Kendricks and Karnu Grugier-Hill, doing NFL Network interviews and considered podium worthy for the postgame press conference.

 It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for Elliott, who described it as a hectic time, moving from a just-furnished apartment in Cincinnati to suddenly moving to Philadelphia, and getting to know a new group of players – some of whom weren’t sure what his name was.

“I’m just real thankful for the opportunity and the whole opportunity the Eagles have given me,” said Elliott, whose longest field goal prior to this was a 56-yarder at Memphis. “I remember when they called a timeout and I had to go and grab a kick to get myself a little settled. I almost kicked a photographer when I came off the field to try the practice kick [into the net]. I wasn’t too happy about that.

“I jogged out like it was a normal kick. All I remember about the kick is that it was up a while. I definitely questioned the ball while it was in the air.”  

In the short time Elliott has been with the Eagles he’s certainly received his chances. He’s 4-for-6 overall, missing a 52-yarder wide left against the Giants, before bouncing back to hit 46-yarder with :51 to tie it at 24-24, then the historic 61-yarder as time expired to win it.

“I approach every miss and every make the same way, I have a one to two-minute rule, something I sort of kind of learned to do in high school,” Elliott said. “You miss a kick you have one minute to get over it, or you make a kick you have one minute to enjoy it and bounce back. I don’t dwell on it for too long.

“I might give this [game-winner] a day.”

Elliott wanted the chance. So did holder Donnie Jones. He used a couple of “choice words” in trying to implore head coach Doug Pederson and special teams coach Dave Fipp to let Elliott try to win the game. He knew Elliott was ready to go, Jones said. He could see in the rookie’s eyes.

“A kicker has to have a really short memory, and it all 11 that won this,” Jones said. “The way Jake carries himself and approaches practice, in my mind, he’s not a rookie. He manages to forget about the misses and comes back. I was looking up and tracking the ball all of the way, as soon as Jake hit it.”

Jones also had another concern on his mind. Waiting back by the goal posts was the Giants’ dangerous Odell Beckham Jr.

“I was thinking to myself that if Odell gets the ball in his hands, who’s going to tackle him,” Jones said. “I started getting down the field and as soon as I saw the official put his hands up, it was a great moment. In 14 years in this league, that was probably one of the greatest moments, if not the greatest moment as an ultimate team victory that I’ve been around.

“The only thing I told Jake was, ‘You got it, man, you got it.’ He went through his routine and drilled it. The snap was perfect. Everything was perfect. You have to have the snap, the protection, everything was great. I told Jake after the first miss is have a short memory and move on. If you dwell about it, it affects your mindset the rest of the game. The same thing with a punter.

“You have to be mentally strong to be a punter or a kicker, because bad things are going to happen and it’s how you bounce back and respond. Jake did a really nice job with that. He kicked a 61-yarder in a cross wind to win the game – and even me, being in this league as long as I’ve been, your heart gets going a little bit.”

Jones said Elliott hit the ball with a nice thud.

“Jake does look really young and we mess with him all of the time,” Jones said, laughing. “As an inside joke, we call him ‘Doogie Howser.’”

Brandon Graham couldn’t even watch the final play. He looked down as Elliott wound up and was going to go by the reaction of his teammates and the crowd.

 “I was thinking, ‘Oh baby, let’s get off this field,’” Graham recalled. “I was looking at people’s feet. If we ran out on the field, we won. I know his last name is Elliott. That’s funny. As far as people coming in and out, but overall, when his number was called, he made the one that won the game. Nothing but respect for him. I know his name now, I know his name.

“For us, I was happy we got off the field when we were supposed to, but with Jake, I’m happy for him, especially making a big play like that in a big-time game. We have two good kickers. According to [the media], the Giants were supposed to win the NFC East. Look where they are and look where we are.”

It’s safe the say the Eagles know Jake Elliott’s name now.