NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — With NFL teams unable to sign undrafted players because of the lockout, West Chester receiver Dan DePalma has been looking for almost anyone to throw him passes.
DePalma found an unexpected partner Wednesday: Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
The 21-year-old New Jersey native joined Manning and five other Giants at Hoboken High School for the penultimate workout of the quarterback’s two-week passing camp.
The chance to catch passes from Manning and backup Sage Rosenfels was somewhat of a fluke. DePalma had been working at a training center in Mahwah and met Giants tight end Kevin Boss, who invited him to take part in the camp.
“Obviously I jumped at the opportunity. Anything that helps me get ready for the next level is what I am looking for,” DePalma said.
DePalma is one of those long shots looking to make the jump from a Division II program to NFL. He started his career at Shepherd University in West Virginia and transferred to West Chester, where he played cornerback before switching to wideout. He caught 50 passes for 962 yards and nine touchdowns this season, averaging an impressive 19.2 yards.
“I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for hardworking, Division II kids,” said Boss. “I can relate to him.”
Before the draft, he participated in pro days at Lehigh and Temple and was timed in an 4.38 for the 40-yard dash. He also worked out for the Giants, Jets and Eagles.
His dream would have been being a seventh-round draft pick, but he never got a call, and teams are not allowed to talk to him because of the lockout.
“It’s been pretty quiet,” DePalma said. “I have been staying in touch with my agent, kind of waiting and hoping. There is really nothing you can do. The most I can do now is to keep working and training, stay in shape and catch the ball. That’s about all I can do and all I can control.”
DePalma has most of his time working out at Velocity Sports Performance, where he has done a lot of work with Packers running back Ryan Grant, another player who made it to the NFL after not being drafted.
“He has been giving me all the tips, keeping me calm, and telling me everything I have to know, which is a big help,” DePalma said. “When I go home I am not as worried or stressed out. I kind of sit back and relax. It had helped me through this process, a lot more than if I was on my own.”
Meeting Boss also didn’t hurt.
“I was just trying to get Dan a little work,” Boss said. “You know, he is getting ready to get hopefully picked up.”
DePalma described himself as a versatile player. He can play on coverage teams, the slot in the receiver formations, and return punts and kickoffs.
Wearing black shorts and a white T-shirt, he seemingly had no problems running his routes, whether it was a post, an out or a comeback pattern.
“It was kind of a basic terminology every football team uses,” DePalma said. “Each team will break it up into their own lingo or language. They used the basic one for me and I kind of picked it up as we went along; it wasn’t too crazy.”
Catching passes from Manning and Rosenfels wasn’t bad, either.
Some friends even kidded him, asking him what he thought Eli would say if he showed up in a Manning jersey.
“It’s amazing,” DePalma said of catching passes from a Super Bowl MVP. “It’s nice to have a constant quarterback that can give you a good ball every time. You know if you are in the right spot you are going to get a good pass. It really displays your talents as far as catching and running routes goes when you know you have a good quarterback.”
Being back at Hoboken was like old times, too. He played at Verona High School and lost a state championship game on this field in 2006. The following year, Verona returned and beat Hoboken to advance to another state title game.
“I have good memories on this field,” DePalma said.
DePalma is living at home in Verona with his parents, Diane and Daniel. He has picked up some part-time jobs, working in a warehouse of a water company owned by a neighbor.
“My main focus is to stay in shape and get ready for some kind of season because nobody knows what’s going to happen and what’s going on,” DePalma said. “That’s the toughest part. The best I can do is prepare myself. I am looking forward to playing somewhere in the near future. I am just hoping for the best at this point.”
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