Eagles rookie camp leftovers: Small school Jalyx Hunt taking it all in

Eagles rookie camp leftovers: Small school Jalyx Hunt taking it all in originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jalyx Hunt stepped up onto the stage at the NovaCare Complex and settled himself behind the microphone with a big smile.

“This is cool,” Hunt said while scanning the crowd. “How y’all doing?”

The Eagles held their rookie minicamp last weekend and it was a chance for the Eagles’ third-round pick from Houston Christian to get his feet wet in the NFL world. For any college product, there’s a transition. For a guy from a small school like Houston Christian, everything is different.

Starting with the overwhelming amount of media attention.

Hunt said he didn’t get much “microphone time” while he was a safety at Cornell and even as he became a draftable prospect at HCU, he still did just a few interviews for local television stations.

“Obviously, the Combine and the Senior Bowl were very eye opening,” Hunt said. “At the Combine, you stand on the podium and people just walk up and ask questions so that was wild. Now, sitting in front of cameras and everybody here is something that’s cemented in my brain. This is a crazy experience and the first moment I’ve been able to experience something like that.”

Welcome to the NFL, kid.

Of course, there are plenty of other differences between playing in the Southland Conference and playing in the National Football League. And even in his first trip back to the NovaCare Complex since getting drafted, those differences were obvious.

Hunt said Houston Christian didn’t even have a full-time equipment manager. The Eagles have five full-time members of their equipment staff, multiple athletic trainers and nutritionists and more.

“So the most unique thing about me and a lot of the small school guys is just the resources,” Hunt said. “Being able to get things and have access to things that you weren’t able to have access to unless you went out and did them on your own. For one, it saves me a lot of hassle. Everything is right under this roof and if I have any questions I can go ask somebody.

“But a lot of the guessing is taken out of it as well. Before this I had just been doing things that I have seen pros do or think a pro would do and now I can just ask the question. I think that’s kind of a unique point of view.”

The ambidextrous lineman

In a now-infamous line in 2019, former Eagles first-round pick Andre Dillard explained the difficulty of switching from left tackle to right tackle by comparing it to writing an essay with his left hand.

That wouldn’t even a problem for fifth-round pick Trevor Keegan. He’s ambidextrous.

In everything?

“Not everything,” Keegan said. “I can’t hit a baseball lefty. But pretty much everything else.”

At Michigan, Keegan started 36 games at left guard with minimal experience at other positions. But in the NFL, especially as a fifth-round pick, he’s going to need to offer more versatility than that. That’s where being ambidextrous should help him to play on both sides of the center. He also has the ability to play center in a pinch too.

“I’m comfortable anywhere on the interior three,” Keegan said. “I’m actually ambidextrous so it’s not that hard. But anywhere they put me, I’m going to work my tail off to do the best I can.”

Two veterans in attendance

Last week’s camp was just for rookies but a couple of Eagles vets showed up to watch. Both A.J. Brown and Jordan Mailata were on the field in street clothes to watch their respective position groups.

As you’d probably imagine, head coach Nick Sirianni loved it.

“What was really cool in my mind was that A.J.was out there today and that Jordan Mailata was out there today,” Sirianni said on Friday. “A.J. giving out coaching points. Jordan Mailata, I got in here this morning, he was in here for the team meeting and went to the O-line meeting this morning, just to be there with those guys.

“That's special. That's a connection that these guys are willing to put that time in to be around our rookies, see what they're made of, and just be there for them. So I'm excited for these guys to all get immersed into the culture. It was cool to see our veterans do that today.”

Not only are Brown and Mailata veterans, but they’re veterans who got big contract extensions this offseason. Brown signed a three-year, $96 million extension through 2029 and Mailata got a three-year, $66 million extension through 2028. So those two aren’t just veterans; they’re franchise cornerstones and it means a lot to see them put in extra time like this.

Studying the XFL

Rookie fifth-round pick Ainias Smith was not participating in Friday’s practice. He’s still recovering from a stress fracture that was discovered at the Combine. But Smith said he’s feeling good and the team is just exercising precaution. Eagles OTAs don’t begin until May 20.

If Smith ends up having a role as a rookie, one facet of his job could be contributing as a return man. At Texas A&M, Smith returned 20 kickoffs for 360 yards (18.0) and returned 82 punt returns for 836 yards (10.2) with two touchdowns.

Smith’s rookie season will also be the first with a new kickoff rule in the NFL. The new rules have been adopted on a trial basis in 2024 and the play will look like what the XFL used to do:

Smith is ready for it.

“I have done a little bit of studying for sure,” Smith said. “I’ve also took my time to go back and watch film on the XFL and how they used to do things. Really, honestly, it’s just all about the setup. I feel like when it comes to returns like that, it’s not going to be a full speed … they’re going to be running full speed but they’re not going to have as much field to cover as they used to. I would say it’s just all about the setup, how you set up your blocks, set up your return and just taking it to the crib.”

Clemson North

Before this draft, the Eagles hadn’t taken a Clemson player in the draft since K’Von Wallace in 2020. And they hadn’t taken two Clemson players in the same draft class since 1959 when they had a 28-man class.

But this year, the Eagles drafted running back Will Shipley in the fourth round and then followed that up by drafting linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. in the fifth.

“When we came in, we both knew what we wanted to do as freshman at Clemson,” Shipley said. “That’s get on the field, play, compete for a National Championship and just go be our best. With that, him being a linebacker, me being a running back, we butted heads a lot. We got after it in practice and we just always competed. So to have him here is, one, it’s great to have a friend, someone I’m familiar with. But also someone I know is going to push me every single day and somebody that’s going to make me better. And I’m going to do the same for him.”

For both Shipley and Trotter, it’ll be nice to have a familiar face already in the building.

As a linebacker and running back, Shipley and Trotter would face off quite a bit during their college days and will probably be doing it again at the NFL level. They competed at Clemson but also worked to help one another.

“If he beats me on a rep, he’ll be like, ‘Hey if you do this next time, that’ll help you,’” Trotter said. “If I beat him on a rep, maybe I’ll be like, ‘Hey, you should have did this.’ Just trying to share ideas back and forth and trying to make each other better.”

Subscribe to Eagle Eye anywhere you get your podcasts: 
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube