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2 Eagles plays, 8 seconds apart, set off celebrations on opposite sides of the country


Martin Frank   | Delaware News Journal
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It was eight seconds of game time, but for family and friends of two little-known Eagles players, the reverberations were felt from San Francisco to just outside Los Angeles, and then to Norfolk, Virginia.

Bobby Wilder was watching with his two dogs and a cat from his couch in Norfolk, near Old Dominion University, when wide receiver Travis Fulgham caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz with 5:50 remaining in the game to give the Eagles an 18-14 lead.

Wilder immediately thought back to the spring of 2015, when as head coach at ODU, he offered Travis Fulgham a spot as a walk-on.

At the time, Fulgham was new to football, playing only two years in high school after having moved all around the world, including the Middle East, with his military family. 

"His version of football back then was soccer," Wilder said with a laugh. Fulgham grew up playing soccer, basketball and cricket before switching to football. "But he had such great athleticism that we felt like taking a chance on him."

That made Fulgham the longest of long shots to eventually make it to the NFL, then catch that pass from Wentz in front of a national TV audience watching on Sunday Night Football.

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"The (pets) all got into a panic when they saw me jump off the couch when Travis caught that TD pass," Wilder said. "I was just so excited for Travis because here's a guy who had to earn everything. Nothing was ever handed to him. I couldn't have been more proud of him."

Eight seconds of game time later, and on the very next play from scrimmage, linebacker Alex Singleton stepped in front of a pass thrown by the 49ers' Nick Mullens and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, putting the Eagles in front 25-14.

The Eagles held on for a 25-20 victory, buoyed by two players who took the longest of  roads to the NFL.

Matt Singleton, Alex's brother, was watching from his backyard in Thousand Oaks, California, near Los Angeles, along with his father, Steve, and two close friends.

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"When he first caught the ball, we were in shock," Matt Singleton said. "It was like time had frozen. That was one thing. Then he started running, and before we knew it, he was in the end zone. Next thing I know, we all met in the middle (of the yard) and we started jumping up and down. We couldn't believe it.

"I'm sure the neighbors were wondering what was going on. I hope we weren't too loud."

They had every right to be.

Singleton barely had any scholarship offers coming out of Thousand Oaks High School, and he ended up going to Montana State. Then it was on to the Seattle Seahawks, where he was cut three times. He was also cut by the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and the Eagles. 

He spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League.

"It hasn't been an easy road for him," Matt Singleton said. "But he has taken every challenge – going to Montana State, the Seahawks, playing in the CFL, and coming up from the Eagles' practice squad – and made the most out of every opportunity."

The only reason Singleton was in the game was because starting linebacker T.J. Edwards had hurt his hamstring.

So, yeah, Singleton was likely just as surprised as his family was when he intercepted Mullens' pass and headed toward the end zone.

"Obviously, he kind of threw the ball right to me, so my heart kind of skipped a beat," Singleton said. "I just caught it and went with it. I knew I had to get into the end zone. We talk about it all week, score on defense. So that was the only thing going through my mind."

'We gotta put him on scholarship'

When Fulgham signed with ODU as a walk-on in 2015, Wilder said he promised Fulgham's parents that he'd be on a full scholarship within a year. 

That summer, a scholarship became available during the first week of practice. One day, the Monarchs were running one-on-one drills with a quarterback throwing to a wide receiver being covered by a defensive back.

"He was making all of these acrobatic catches, and physically dominating the cornerbacks who were on him," Wilder said. "I said right away, 'We gotta put him on scholarship.'"

Fulgham redshirted that season, then did well as a freshman and sophomore before regressing somewhat as a junior with a true freshman at quarterback, which Wilder said was understandable.

Wilder knew that wouldn't work for Fulgham's senior year.

"I remember telling him, 'This is it. You're going to have to do something to get noticed,'" Wilder said.

Sure enough, in late September of 2018, the Monarchs were playing ACC power Virginia Tech. Fulgham was dominant, catching 9 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown in ODU's upset 49-35 win.

He went on to lead Conference USA in receiving yards with 1,083 to go along with 63 receptions and 9 touchdowns. Fulgham was drafted in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions in 2019.

He spent most of the season on the practice squad before getting into three games late in the season. He never caught a pass. This summer, he was waived by the Lions and the Green Bay Packers before getting signed by the Eagles on Aug. 20. He was then waived on Sept. 3 and signed to the practice squad three days later.

That's where Fulgham stayed until last Saturday, when five of the Eagles' top six wide receivers were sidelined with injuries.

Fulgham might have been unknown to Eagles fans and those watching on TV, but he wasn't unknown to Eagles cornerback Darius Slay. They were both with the Lions last season, and Slay said he remembered going against Fulgham in practice. 

"I knew he had the ability to make different types of plays like that," Slay said. "I was waiting till he came out of his cocoon. He was in his little cocoon for a good minute. He came out, broke out of his shell, and he was making the plays that Detroit saw him making, and now Philly’s seeing it."

His old coach was just as proud about another play.

Wilder pointed out a video that an Eagles fan shot from the TV broadcast.

It wasn't a detailed frame-by-frame image of the touchdown catch, in which Fulgham got behind his defender deep down the left sideline, caught the pass over his shoulder while staying in bounds to get into the end zone.

Rather, it was from a play from the first quarter, when the Eagles went for the 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown. On the video, Fulgham took his defender and blocked him all the way through the end zone.

Wilder said that block reminded him of the speech he gave to Fulgham and another one of his wide receivers who made it to the NFL, Zach Pascal with the Indianapolis Colts.

"I remember telling them, 'You're at Old Dominion. You're not at Alabama. You have to do something to separate yourself,'" Wilder said. "You're not going to make it to the next level just catching the ball.

"Those guys really took it to heart. Zach's senior year, no one outworked him, and it was the same with Travis in his senior year."

Getting the chance

Matt Singleton had seen the same work ethic from his brother. Alex is a few years older, but the two always played football together, whether it was in youth leagues or at Thousand Oaks High School.

"Football was always our identifier," Matt said. "We were both linebackers and that was all we wanted to do."

Singleton was more noted for his special teams prowess in the NFL than as a linebacker. He didn't play a single snap on defense last season, and only had 11 defensive snaps through the first three games.

Then Edwards got hurt early in the second half, and Singleton played 15 snaps.

"It was pretty crazy," Matt said. "Usually, if we see him, it's on special teams, or maybe a snap or two on defense. So seeing him playing late in the game was pretty wild. Then, to see him intercept the pass and score a touchdown and have his teammates mob him in the end zone in front of the cameras, with everyone watching him, was incredible."

That thought occurred to Alex Singleton as well.

“It’s been a long time to obviously get to the point where I get any defensive snaps,” Singleton said after the game. “First time in the league was six years ago, so to be able to finally have that come, to be able to make a play for this team is what you do it for. As much as I’ll enjoy it for myself, I’m happy this team won."

No doubt, the feeling is mutual for Fulgham, and their friends and family members across the country reacting with sheer joy from two plays that happened 8 seconds apart.

Martin Frank, sports reporter

Martin Frank, sports reporter

I cover the Philadelphia Eagles for the News Journal. I've learned that there's never an offseason for a team that has such a hold over people in Delaware. I enjoy bringing that passion for the Birds to readers, whether it's in-season or out, a Super Bowl run or the drama leading up to the draft. But I mostly enjoy bringing you the stories of the players, from the 53rd man on the roster to star quarterback Carson Wentz. Your support as a News Journal subscriber enables me to bring those stories to you.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.