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Ifeanyi Momah, 6-7 receiver from Glenn, hopes to catch on with Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles' Ifeanyi Momah catches a tethered ball

Philadelphia Eagles' Ifeanyi Momah catches a tethered ball at the team's training camp in Philadelphia. (July 23, 2013) Credit: AP

PHILADELPHIA - It's no wonder Eagles receiving great Harold Carmichael has taken a special interest in wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah. At 6-7, Momah is the spitting image of Carmichael, the tallest receiver in NFL history at 6-8 when he starred for the Eagles in the 1970s and early '80s.

Well, almost.

"They say [Momah] runs in the 4.3's, and I never even got close to that," Carmichael joked on Monday at Eagles practice, where he helped Momah, a former standout at John Glenn High School in East Northport, with some of the finer points of the position.

Carmichael is the Eagles' director of player development and alumni but also interacts with the players on the field. "He's got a lot of physical tools," he said of Momah. "Now he has to use them to his advantage."

Carmichael thinks the Eagles may have a hidden gem in Momah, who signed as a free agent in the offseason.

"He can do this," said Carmichael, a seventh-round pick in 1971 who became a four-time Pro Bowl receiver. "He has to do what I did, and that's learn how to play the position as a big man. It's different being so tall, because when you're growing up, your friends were so short and you'd try to run with those same short strides. That happened to me until I learned that I have to use my size as a weapon. So [Momah] is going to have to learn like I did."

Momah has taken a circuitous route to get to this point, suffering a knee injury in his senior season at Boston College in 2011. Momah was hurt in the season opener against Northwestern after a spectacular performance with eight catches for 171 yards, undergoing surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He required a second surgery to remove excess scar tissue. By the time he was fully healthy last August, NFL teams' rosters were set and he decided to sit out the season and go back to Boston College to work on his Masters in business administration.

It was his two older brothers -- one of whom, Onyi, played for the Bengals and Bills -- who convinced him not to give up on his football dreams.

"They saw my talent and wanted to make sure I used it before going to a regular 9-to-5 job," he said. "That was the good thing, because the whole process was tough."

Momah knows he's still a long shot to make the team, but he's convinced he's got a chance. It may help his cause that the Eagles are in need of receiver help after starter Jeremy Maclin went down with a season-ending knee injury early in training camp. Tuesday, wide receiver Arrelious Benn tore his ACL. Not only that, but backup receiver Riley Cooper's status is in doubt after he was seen in a video making racist comments at a concert several weeks ago.

"I don't know what's going to happen with this situation, but I'm trying to give myself the best opportunity to make this team and work my way up to starter," he said. "If that doesn't work out, so be it. I just want to make sure I give my hardest effort and that I leave nothing behind."

Watch Momah run his routes during practice, and his imposing physical presence and long, smooth strides remind you somewhat of former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who now plays for the Steelers. Momah smiles when asked if he compares himself with the 6-5 receiver.

"That's one of my favorite players," Momah said. "He's a bigger receiver, he doesn't try to play with [opposing defensive backs]. He actually tries to overpower them. So playing bigger is something I take from him as far as being more aggressive on the line. He embodies that style."

It's what Carmichael repeatedly tells Momah.

"Harold said I have to play bigger, use longer strides and be more tenacious instead of trying to be a quicker guy," Momah said. "As a bigger guy, you have to use your power and be stronger. That's something I'm trying to do every day."

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