PHILADELPHIA - Quron Pratt grew up so close to Lincoln Financial Field, he could practically hear the roar from the fans when the Eagles scored a touchdown.
The native of Palmyra, Burlington County, hopes to generate some cheers of his own during the upcoming NFL season. Pratt, a former wide receiver and special-teams ace at Rutgers University, is attending the Eagles' Organized Team Activities (OTAs) after signing as an undrafted rookie.
"I grew up 20 minutes from here, just over the (Tacony-Palmyra) bridge," Pratt said after Monday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "My whole family is Eagles fans. We were all at my grandmother's house watching the (NFL) draft, and when the Eagles called after it was over, everyone started hugging and kissing each other. My parents even started crying."
Pratt, who is 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, will try to become the first player from South Jersey to make the Eagles' regular-season roster in 16 years. Wide receiver Irving Fryar (Rancocas Valley High School) and offensive lineman George Hegamin (Camden, Woodrow Wilson H.S.) both played for the 1998 team.
As if that were not enough pressure, Pratt also is wearing a special jersey. The Eagles issued him No. 10, which previously belonged to three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
"I didn't have one favorite player on the Eagles, but I always used to watch DeSean because he's a great playmaker," Pratt said. "My family laughed when they found out I got his number, and they told me I have some very big shoes to fill, but that doesn't bother me. I'm ready. I'm always up for a challenge."
He proved that during his career at Rutgers.
Pratt joined the Scarlet Knights as a defensive back but switched to wide receiver as a freshman. He had a solid career for Rutgers, catching 87 passes for 1,087 yards and one touchdown, but was known more for his versatility. His exploits as a special-teams player and on offense as a senior prompted the team to select him as its Most Valuable Player after last season.
"Quron was a very valuable guy for us," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said last month during an interview in Atlantic City. "To be honest, I'm surprised he wasn't drafted. We have a history of developing receivers who can also play special teams, and Quron was the next one in line for us. He was the ultimate team player for us and I think he'll do very well with the Eagles."
When it comes time to fill out the final 10-15 spots on the roster, Eagles coach Chip Kelly favors players who also can contribute on special teams.
Wide receiver Damaris Johnson made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2012 because of his strength as a kickoff returner. Linebacker Jake Knott stuck last season as a top player on the kickoff and punt coverage units.
"When we're looking at players (for the draft), we usually have a dot on the tag for the ones we expect to be core special teams players," Kelly said last month. "When we're making (roster) decisions, we're erring that way. If there are two guys that are equal and this guy's a better special-teams player, we're going to take him."
Special teams are among Pratt's strengths.
As a senior at Rutgers last season, Pratt blocked a punt against Norfolk State. The following week, he returned his first career kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Eastern Michigan and was named American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
"Our regular returner had gotten hurt earlier in the game, so I was next up," Pratt said. "That was the first time I ever returned a kickoff in a game in my life. I was the kick returner at Palmyra, but teams always kicked away from me."
He still faces a tough challenge in making the Eagles, however.
Despite releasing Jackson and Jason Avant, the Eagles still have 13 wide receivers on the roster. Riley Cooper, Johnson, Jeff Maehl and Brad Smith are back from last season. Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn are returning after missing 2013 with knee injuries. They drafted two wide receivers in Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
Pratt, who chose the Eagles over Baltimore, the New York Giants and New York Jets, still has no regrets. He couldn't pass up the chance to play for his hometown team.
"I'm glad to be here," he said.
Extra point: The Eagles got a scare at the end of Monday's workout when Maclin became tangled with a pair of defensive backs in the end zone and fell to the turf while grabbing his left knee. He got up after a few minutes and jogged back to join his teammates at midfield. Kelly ended the practice after that play.
Contact David Weinberg: