Florham Park, NJ – “You never know.”
That’s a fitting way to describe Ryan Spadola’s chances of making the team at the start training camp this year. It’s also the words the undrafted rookie receiver out of Lehigh used to describe his uncertainty over his job status coming into work today, with the Jets looking to cut the roster down to 75 players.
But after a game in which Spadola pulled in three catches for 110 yards and a touchdown, it would’ve been a shock if he had to clean out his locker. The rookie has been turning heads all camp, and was part of the focus of Rex Ryan’s game tape at today’s press conference.
“I don’t think anything is ever unrealistic,” said Spadola. “I think you need to push yourself, and work as hard as you possibly can, and I think everything kind of filters through itself.”
Hard work has carried him a long way. He picked Lehigh as much for its academics, as he did for its football program. Money certainly wasn’t an incentive. Lehigh is part of the Patriot League that didn’t give out athletic scholarships at the time.
At Lehigh the largest crowd he played in front of was maybe 18,000, but it usually didn’t top 10,000. Now he’s playing in front of crowds of 80,000.
“I wake up every morning with a smile on my face,” said Spadola. “I’m living a dream that tons and tons of kids look to do.”
Spadola doesn’t have to look too far back to remember what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence. For the last few years he has been an observer at the Eagles training camp. An experience he believes prepared him for this opportunity.
“I think the biggest thing [I learned from Eagles camp] is you know how important executing everything is,” said Spadola. “You go 110 percent. You get evaluated on every single thing you do, whether it’s coming back from a catch—if you jog or walk in—if you’re a backside route are you going 100 percent or are you taking the play off. So I guess that’s the most important thing, is giving it your all on every route.”
That mentality has helped the New Jersey native draw favorable comparisons to another undrafted receiver from the Garden State, Wayne Chrebet. In fact, the two have recently exchange emails, and the former fan favorite has given Spadola plenty of advice.
“Obviously when he started his career he went through a similar process that I did,” said Spadola. “So, I took all of his tips and kind of embraced that, and just continue to work hard. Never sit back on anything you’ve achieved up to date”
The final cuts will be made August 31. If Spadola is still on the team, he knows how he’ll celebrate. Just don’t expect anything too flashy.
“Obviously a lot of the stuff I’m going to do is with my family. They’ve been the biggest guidance throughout my entire football career.”
Oh and he’ll probably pay off his student loans.