When it comes to drafting running backs, the Philadephia Eagles have been known to shop local.
Over the years, their backfields have featured players who either grew up or played college football within a 100-mile radius of Lincoln Financial Field.
Brian Westbrook started the trend in 2002, when the Eagles took him in the third round after a standout career at Villanova University. Seven years later, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, product LeSean McCoy was a second-round pick.
The current roster includes Wendell Smallwood, of Wilmington, Delaware, who was a fifth-round pick in 2016. They also signed Glassboro’s Corey Clement and Josh Adams, of Warrington, Pennsylvania, as rookie free agents in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Ryquell Armstead or Wes Hills could be next in line.
Armstead (Millville) and Hills (Wildwood) are both candidates to be selected in the NFL draft this week. Both are projected as prospects who could be taken in the third to seventh rounds. Philadelphia is among the franchises that have been mentioned as possible destinations during the predraft process, though there are a slew of others.
Both players have been linked to the Falcons, Patriots and Eagles. One mock draft has the Falcons taking Hills in the third round. Hills also has been mentioned as a possibility for the Chargers, Rams, Steelers, Ravens, Jets and Giants.
Armstead worked out and visited with the Eagles and the Bears. The Texans are also among the teams that are reportedly interested.
The Eagles would be a fit for him both professionally and personally. The 5-foot-11, 215 pounder would be right at home at the Linc, considering he starred for Temple University. It would also mean he wouldn’t have to uproot his family, which includes 3-year-old daughter Ry-kail.
“Philadelphia is like home for me right now, just being there four years in college,” Armstead told NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com. “But whatever team drafts me, I’m going to be happy and grateful for the opportunity.”
Both have made the most of their opportunities throughout their football careers while also demonstrating an ability to fight through adversity.
Armstead was dismissed from the football team at Millville High School during his sophomore year but bounced back to shine as a junior and senior. During his senior season, the 2015 graduate rushed for a school-record 337 yards in a game against Absegami and amassed 1,488 yards and 18 touchdowns that season.
At Temple, he was hampered by nagging injuries and split time with Absegami graduate David Hood during the 2017 season. When Hood retired from football because of concussions and focused on his burgeoning rap career, Armstead took over and ran for 1,098 yards and 13 TDs for the Owls. He also demonstrated his versatility by playing as an edge rusher on defense and recorded a sack against Tulsa.
Hills has spent a lot of his football career trying to get noticed.
Wildwood High School is not exactly known as a football factory. But Hills, a 2013 graduate, made the Warriors relevant for the first time since three-sports standout Bill Osborn was playing in the early 1980s. He rushed for 2,107 yards and scored 35 TDs in 2012.
He had a solid career at the University of Delaware before leaving school because of an academic issue. He was out of football for a year, working as a security guard, before deciding to use his final year of eligibility at NCAA Division II Slippery Rock University. He ran for 1,714 yards and 17 TDs.
“At the end of the day, football is a man’s game,” Hills said. “It’s me versus you. It’s a matter of showing what you can do in that situation, no matter where you went to school.”
Now, they’re awaiting that phone call that every player dreams of receiving, of seeing their name appear on the TV screen during the draft.
Both would love to play for the Eagles but will gladly accept a chance to play for any team.
Once again, all they want is an opportunity.
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.