By Mark Eckel, Player Engagement Insider
Nothing ever came easy for Rasul Douglas and that was fine with the Philadelphia Eagles cornerback. The harder he had to work, the more he knew he was going to make it.
Douglas grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, the fifth of seven children raised by his grandmother.
“I mean it was cool,’’ Douglas said. “We were never bored. There was always someone around to hang out with and do stuff.’’
Mike Davis, Douglas’ Little League baseball coach and a mentor for at-risk youths in East Orange, played a big role in Rasul’s early years.
“He was the one who took me out of the streets,’’ Douglas said. “He made sure we did what we had to do.’’
And that’s what Douglas has done ever since from living on the floor of an apartment and not being able to eat every day at Nassau Community College, to a stellar career at West Virginia University to becoming the third-round pick of the Eagles in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“Sports wasn’t that big until I got a little older,’’ Douglas said. “I played baseball first, but I didn’t play football until I got to high school.’’
Douglas attended a performing arts school in Northern New Jersey that didn’t have an athletic program so, he played his football at the local public high school, East Orange.
There were scattered offers from Division I schools, but Douglas felt he needed to attend a junior college. He didn’t feel he was ready for the rigors of what it took to succeed at that level. Not yet anyway.
So, he chose Nassau, which didn’t have dorms. He lived in a small apartment eight miles from campus, took a bus back and forth to school and practice, slept on the floor and ate only when he could afford it.
“It wasn’t easy,’’ he said “I’m going to school and I haven’t really ate so, you can’t even think straight some times. And then you have to work out, and you’re hungry because you haven’t eaten. But I knew. I knew it would all work out one day. I just had to keep believing and working every day.’’
Douglas’ meals consisted of whatever was on the McDonald’s dollar menu and then rationing that meal to last a couple of days.
“Every time I eat, I always think I’m making up for a meal I missed in junior college,’’ Douglas said. “I knew I did all of that work for something. The goal was to be here one day. So, I just put in the time and the work hoping it would pay off. At the end of the day the hard work, the sacrifices allowed me to get here.’’
At West Virginia, the 6-2, 209-pound cornerback made first team All-Big 12 as a senior when he shared the NCAA lead in interceptions with eight. That led him to being selected by Philadelphia with the 99th overall pick of the 2017 Draft.
“When I got to West Virginia it was great,’’ he said “At a Division I school you have all the pieces you need. They’re there for you. It’s on you, if you want to be successful, not just with football, but if you want to do well, they’ll make sure you do. I had a tutor if I needed one for school. I mean, I didn’t really have to worry about anything, I just had to keep working hard.’’
That hard work landed him with the NFC East Champion Eagles where, in the 11 games he’s played, he is third on the team with 11 passes defensed and one off the team lead in interceptions with two.
“I was driven to be here. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me,’’ Douglas said. “I had to do the things I had to do to get here. I tell everyone that. Everyone asks me about my story, some people say they want to make it like I did. I just tell them it’s not about what school you go to, it’s all about how hard you work. Your work ethic speaks for itself, no one can teach you effort. It’s either you have it or you don’t. I just tell them to work hard, stay focused and leave the distractions alone. Because there are a lot of things that will distract you from where you want to be. Whether that’s friends, girls, social media, everything plays a part. You just have to stay focused on what’s really important.’’