It takes some mental math to figure out, but the Eagles’ Alex Singleton went into the season as a backup linebacker hoping to make around 25 tackles after making five last season, all on special teams.
His goal was for a good cause: He’s raising money for the Special Olympics, and donations have been pledged for every tackle he makes.
Singleton’s original hope was to raise $2,000, which would require 25 tackles since his pledges average $80 for each one. Fortunately for everyone involved, Singleton already has shattered his original goal thanks to an increase in playing time. He has a team-high 60 tackles — including 28 in the last two weeks — and has raised about $4,700 for his cause.
“The last two weeks, I think we’ve done over $2,500, which is incredible when I look back and think of the whole season goal was to just raise $2,000 for Special Olympics Pennsylvania,” Singleton said Saturday. “Now we’re at $10,000 as the goal. And we’re quickly climbing to that goal.”
Singleton’s inspiration comes from his older sister, Ashley, who has Down syndrome and has competed in the Special Olympics for roughly 20 years. When he took home a game ball for his first career fumble recovery in last week’s loss at Cleveland, Singleton sent it to Ashley.
“It’s huge to me to be able to have Special Olympics and my sister and all these other athletes be part of my life,” Singleton said. “They’re my inspiration. It’s the reason I play with a smile. It’s the reason I enjoy the game.
“I’ve seen athletes with intellectual disabilities (who struggle) just to get out of bed ... and they’re out there playing soccer and bowling, swimming, whatever sport they’re in. You can see the true joy on their faces. So to be able to do that for a living, I’ll always carry that with me and know what I’m playing for. It’s just exciting to be able to raise money and give back to that organization.”
Singleton’s ascension up the Eagles’ linebacker depth chart was partly brought on by Nate Gerry going on injured reserve with an Achilles injury. Still, Singleton has made the case that he should stay in the lineup even if Gerry returns at some point.
Singleton, who turns 27 on Saturday, has been the best Eagles linebacker with significant snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, which gives him a 60.2 grade for the season. Gerry, the team’s lowest-graded linebacker, has a 45.7 grade.
When asked about Singleton’s recent performances, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Singleton has played well but still has a lot to learn.
“He’s always been a good football player,” Schwartz said. “He’s still learning. I’m going to quote Bill Parcells: ‘Let’s not put him in the Hall of Fame just yet.’ And I say that with a lot of respect for Alex. He plays tough and really brings some things to our defense. But he’s not 100% clean in his game. He’d probably be the first person to tell you that, and there’s still things that he’s developing through and he’s still working at. But just knowing him and his character, he’s going to work at it to get it right.”
Singleton, a California native with a Canadian mother, was undrafted out of Montana State in 2015. He spent time with Seattle, New England and Minnesota but didn’t play, and became a CFL star in three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders. After winning the Grey Cup in 2018, Singleton was signed to the Eagles’ practice squad and made the 53-man roster midway through last year.
This year, he’s become a promising player in an underwhelming linebacking corps. He’s the only Eagles linebacker with an interception this season and one of two defensive players to score a touchdown.
“When Nate went on IR, he was asked to step up and play a really, really big role and I think he’s doing a really, really good job,” safety Jalen Mills said of Singleton. “He’s commanding the defense inside of the huddle with making calls and also pre-snap and post-snap alignments; he’s making adjustments and even calling out plays here and there. So when you get a guy like that in the middle of your defense doing that, it kind of calms everybody down.”
Even though Schwartz noted that Singleton has room for improvement, he said the young linebacker’s willingness to receive coaching could help him stick with the Eagles.
“I really like Alex’s mentality,” Schwartz said. “Makes mistakes like a lot of young players do, or players that are playing for the first time; gets them corrected and moves on. I think that he’s definitely earning his wings, so to speak, but he’s still a work in progress and he’s still a guy that needs to grind through and iron some things out. But I like where he’s trending, and I think it’s a nice plus for our defense right now.”