Darius Slay. Avonte Maddox. Zech McPhearson. James Bradberry. Sidney Brown. Kelee Ringo. Eli Ricks.
Chances are, most Eagles fans have heard of the first four on that list. Maybe they have even heard of Brown and Ringo, as the Eagles selected both in this past year’s draft. Chances are, most have not heard of Ricks. 

Coming out of high school, though, Ricks was highly touted. He started his high school football career at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, and helped the Monarchs win back-to-back national high school football championships in 2017 and 2018. After winning the national title his junior year, Ricks transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. In his senior year at IMG, Ricks played ten games, totaling thirteen tackles and three interceptions.

Max Sports, 247 Sports, and Rivals each ranked Ricks as a five-star cornerback and the number one high school football recruit in the state of Florida in the Class of 2020. ESPN ranked Ricks as the number thirty-nine recruit in the nation and a four-star cornerback. When tasked with the difficult decision as to which college he should take his talents, Ricks landed on LSU, an SEC powerhouse. LSU won the national championship in 2019, Ricks’ senior high school season, with quarterback Joe Burrow at the helm.

Ricks made an immediate positive impact in his freshman season at LSU in 2020, recording twenty total tackles, four interceptions, and five pass breakups. Two of Ricks’ interceptions were taken back for touchdowns, one against the South Carolina Gamecocks and the other against the Florida Gators. Ricks’ strong play as a freshman granted him the nickname “Pick-Six Ricks,” a nickname Ricks loves and hopes to keep.

With a smile on his face, Ricks said after his first pick-six as an Eagle of his nickname:

“At least I know it still works. I hope I keep that name forever. Just gotta keep making plays.”

In addition to Ricks’ strong statistical numbers his freshman year, he earned AP third-team All-America honors, was selected a Freshman All-American according to the Football Writers Association of America, was named to the All-SEC Second Team by the AP, and was selected as a Freshman All-SEC honoree by the league coaches in 2020

Ricks’ sophomore season was cut short due to an injury. After much of his sophomore season was spent off the football field, Ricks transferred to an LSU rival, the University of Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide.

Ricks continued to battle through injuries early on in his junior season, though he managed to play in ten games, starting in five. Statistically, Ricks recorded thirteen tackles and four pass breakups on the year. His season-high tackle numbers came in the Sugar Bowl against Kansas State, in which Ricks totaled six tackles. Despite the drop-off Ricks experienced since his freshman season with LSU, he was still projected to be a day two draft pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Well, day two came and went. And then day three came and went. 

After going undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft, Ricks immediately signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. As an undrafted rookie, Ricks’ road to being a member of the Eagles’ roster will be extremely difficult. For the duration of training camp, Ricks has been fighting for a roster spot. Ricks’ chances of making the Eagles’ active roster, though, may have gone up slightly due to his recent success this summer. 

Halfway through the fourth quarter of the Eagles’ preseason opener against the Ravens, Saturday, August 12th, Ricks picked off Ravens’ fourth-string quarterback Anthony Brown’s pass, taking it to the house from 31 yards out, further cementing his status as “Pick-Six Ricks.” In addition to his pick-six, Ricks only allowed one completion for seven yards on four targets in his first exhibition on the NFL stage to go along with two pass breakups

Ricks’ strong showing in his debut with the Eagles has certainly boosted him into the conversation for an active roster spot. The problem for Ricks is the Eagles’ depth at defensive back. In addition to the aforementioned names of Slay, Bradberry, and others, Josh Jobe, Greedy Williams, and Mario Goodrich are all vying for active roster spots in the Eagles’ secondary.

It sure will be a difficult road for Ricks as it is for most undrafted free agents, though if he continues playing well and working hard as he has been, his future will be bright.
And it just might include him suiting up in an Eagles’ uniform on gamedays come this fall. 

Photo: Getty Images

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