Former Bulldog now an Eagle
Ryan Rau hasn’t achieved his dream of playing in a NFL football game, but he’s about as close as he can get as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad.
Rau, 22, is a 2008 Folsom High graduate, signed with the Eagles in June as a free agent. He spent the last four years playing at Portland State, where the 6’1”, 230-pound linebacker led the team in tackles the last three seasons and is the school’s record holder in games played with 43.
“I was pretty excited when the Eagles gave me a call after the draft,” Rau said. “They said they wanted to see me close up and invited me to their rookie mini-camp, which was three-days of practice without pads. I was excited because all I wanted was a team to give me a shot, because I had confidence in my ability.”
There were about 40 players at the mini-camp, including about six or seven linebackers, according to Rau, who must have made a good impression. A week or two later after returning home he received a call from the Eagles asking him to come to the team’s veteran mini-camp in May.
“It was basically the same thing I was doing at the rookie camp except that the veterans were there,” Rau said. “It was definitely a different atmosphere with more energy. They, of course, know the offense and the defense and they got most of the reps. I was wondering how they were going to get a look at me since I didn’t get many reps.”
When the camp was over, Rau wasn’t sure where he stood with the team. As he walked off the field and into the locker room, a man in a suit told him not to get on the bus to the airport, asking him to stick around for awhile.
“It was nerve-racking,” Rau said. “I called my agent and told them I was asked to stick around and he told me that he was looking over the contract that they just offered me. Inside I felt pretty good, but I didn’t show any emotion or anything because I was in the locker room with all the other guys.”
Over the next two months, Rau came home and worked out with Garrett McIntyre, a Folsom resident who plays for the Jets, to prepare himself for training camp in July.
“Camp went really well,” Rau said. “Everyday is nerve-racking because guys are getting cut.”
Rau said he quickly learned not to be in awe of his millionaire teammates.
“The big-name guys are larger than life on TV, but when you’re around them you realize that they’re normal guys like you,” Rau said. “I wasn’t intimidated by them. They are there to work just like I am. At the end of the day, we’re all playing football.”
As a member of the practice squad, which features eight players, Rau does everything the players on the 53-man roster does except suit-up on Sundays.
“I’m on the scout team in practice like all the second-string guys and I have to learn the game plans for the defense every week,” Rau said. “I can be activated anytime and I could play on Sunday.”
Rau’s high school coach, Kris Richardson, is thrilled to see a former player of his reach the NFL.
“I’m so proud of Ryan,” Richardson said. “I saw him over the summer and we’ve kept in touch. When he was here he was the league’s defensive MVP and an all-city player, and at Portland State he was one of their all-time leading tacklers. For him to get the opportunity to be in the NFL is awesome. He’s a great special teams player and he played well in the preseason. He’s proof that hard work pays off. He plays every play like it’s his last.”
Just like a minor leaguer waits for his call to the big leagues in Major League Baseball, Rau is patiently waiting for his chance to get into a game.
“It feels good to be where I’m at, but at the same time I’m humble about it because I know I could be gone at any point,” Rau said. “Any chance I get to make the guy in front of me look bad, I’m going to do it because not only will it make me look good but it will also make the team better.”