Defensive lineman Javon Hargrave believed he was going to be suiting up as a rookie for the Eagles after working out for them at his pro day at South Carolina State.
That was back in 2016, which just so happened to the same year the Eagles made two separate pre-draft trades to rocket up to the No. 2 overall selection to select their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
“That was one of the teams that I thought was going to draft me,” said Hargrave, who spoke to Philly media via conference all on Monday afternoon.
“I was telling all my friends and my family that I think I have a chance of going to the Eagles. Back then I felt they really liked me when they worked me out. It didn’t work out then, but God always has a plan and somehow it ended up working out this time. I’m just happy to be here.”
The Eagles didn’t draft Hargrave four years ago, though they liked him. But, because they took Wentz, they went looking for offensive line help.
They chose Isaac Seumalo at No. 79 then, 10 picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Hargrave. The Eagles also chose Halapoulivaati Vaitai in the same draft, picking Vaitai in the fifth round.
Four years later, Hargrave is an Eagle after signing a free agent contract with them shortly after free agency began last week. The contract is for five years at $65 million, with $25.5M guaranteed.
“A few teams (wanted me) but for me I think the Eagles were the most interested team,” said Hargrave, who added that the Steelers also showed some interest as did the Buffalo Bills.
“I won’t get into all that, but the Eagles were the biggest team. I feel welcome. I feel they really wanted me and I’m going to a team that’s used to winning, so leaving the Steelers to go to the Eagles isn’t a hard job for me. It’s still a winning environment, I’m still around some great talent, so it was really an easy decision.”
Adding Hargrave gives the Eagles a potentially daunting rotation at tackle, with him, Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Hassan Ridgeway and possibly Anthony Rush.
Of course, he is coming from an organization with talent as well. It was an also an organization that drafted him and a place where he made plenty of friends.
“It was real tough (leaving), mostly because of my teammates,” said Hargrave. “I’m real close with a lot of my teammates. It was kind of hard leaving them and going on, but I can’t say I thought fully I would leave Pittsburgh but it was in the back of my mind I knew there was a good chance I was, just seeing some things and them being tight on the (salary) cap space. I was kind of ready knowing there was a chance I would be gone.”
Hargrave, whose nickname of ‘Gravedigger’ was given to him by South Carolina State’s defensive coordinator after he arrived on campus as a freshman, did not receiver many high-level Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school. At just 6-1, he still enjoyed a solid college career, compiling 37 sacks with 63 tackles for loss.
He had 10.5 sacks the past two years in Pittsburgh.
“I got squatty legs,” said Hargrave. “I used to hate everybody talk about my lower half, my legs like that and stuff when I was younger. Now I realize what God was getting me ready for, to be a bull-rush player in the NFL. That’s where my power comes from.”
Moving from the Steelers’ 3-4 defense to Jim Schwartz’s 4-3, attack-style defense has Hargrave excited.
He didn’t think that it would take him very long to learn it, even as talk has begun that the NFL’s OTA period and mandatory minicamp may be cancelled or delayed due to the spread of the coronavirus.
“I know a lot about Jim Schwartz,” said Hargrave. “He’s more of an attack and letting the defensive line make the plays. I don’t want to say that nobody else can make the plays, but he really emphasizes having defensive linemen.
"I think you see from all the talent on the defensive line how his mind set is. Going into a system like his is like a dream come true for a defensive lineman.”
The Eagles are hoping Hargrave can turn his dream into a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.