Rasul Douglas' hunger now is only for success | Bob Brookover

The Eagles' draft attempts to find quality cornerbacks over the last 14 years have been mostly sad and sometimes sickening.

Since getting it right in 2002 with the first- and second-round selections of Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown, the Eagles have drafted 13 cornerbacks. That dirty baker's dozen is a who's who of who has not contributed much to the Eagles in the last decade. The 13 players have made a combined 18 starts and totaled nine interceptions.

The best of the bunch was Brandon Boykin, who had seven of the nine interceptions, including the biggest of the Chip Kelly era in 2013. The worst of the worst was Jack Ikegwuonu, a fourth-round pick in 2008 out of Wisconsin. The Eagles thought he was a steal because he slipped down the draft board after suffering a knee injury. Turned out he was a thief who was addicted to heroin. He played in only one NFL game and two years ago, along with his twin brother, he was sent to prison for armed robbery.

Given those facts, it's no wonder that the Eagles went into the 2017 draft with cornerback as their greatest need. They made their most aggressive draft pursuit of the position since the Sheppard-Brown selections.

The hope is they got a first-round value with a second-round selection in the injured Sidney Jones from Washington. For sure they got one of the best stories in this draft with the third-round selection of West Virginia's Rasul Douglas.

Hunger tops the list of reasons Douglas was such an unlikely draft prospect. Just a few years ago he was at Nassau Community College in Hempstead, N.Y., contemplating quitting the game because it was so difficult to find something to eat.

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"In junior college, it was a struggle," Douglas said. "I was sleeping on the floor and didn't have any money to eat. I thought about leaving."

That Douglas was even playing football beyond high school was a bit of a surprise. By his own admission, he was not the most talented player on an extremely talented 2011 East Orange High School squad in North Jersey. He did not see a future in football.

"I didn't even think about going to college," Douglas said. "My high school coach told me to go and make a name for myself. You can do it."

The coach was Marion Bell, who remained in touch with and continued to train Douglas even after he left East Orange.

"The crazy thing about it is that he was not the most talented player on that team," Bell said. "That team was loaded with talent. Rasul was talented, but he was also determined to go and get it done. Some of his teammates did not have that determination."

Hunger was the greatest obstacle in junior college, where there are no free meals for the athletes.

"I'd go to McDonald's in the snow and order five things [from the dollar menu]," Douglas said. "I'd eat two of them at 12 o'clock and you save the other two dollar-menu things for later on in the day. I think that was one of my craziest days. I thought about leaving."

Bell and others encouraged him to stay.

"I told him straight up he'd be making a mistake and he'd be a fool to do that," Bell said. "He's a special talent and a special kid. He went through the hard times and things turned out good for him. Had he not stayed in school, who knows where he'd be?"

Douglas, 21, ended up at West Virginia and after playing mostly on special teams as a junior he emerged as one of the nation's top cornerbacks in 2016. His eight interceptions were tied for the most in Division I and his 6-foot-2,209-pound frame is exactly what NFL teams crave in cornerbacks these days.

It is possible Jones will not play at all this season because of the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered during his pro day workout in March, which increases the odds of Douglas being pushed into a starting role as a rookie.

"I talked with [Jones] at the combine," Douglas said. "I'm very excited to play with him. I hope he gets healthy fast."

Douglas, meanwhile, remains hungry in a different sort of way because he cannot forget being famished.

"It definitely fuels you," he said. "All the time you're just thinking about what I went through, practicing on an empty stomach, going to school on an empty stomach, you can't even focus. That definitely makes me want to play hard all the time."

For his former high school coach, there was a special satisfaction Friday night watching Douglas graduate from scared and hungry kid to the NFL.

"He's a grown man now," Bell said.

The Eagles, for their part, hope they just hit the cornerback jackpot in this draft. They are definitely overdue.

 bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob