Donnel Pumphrey has faced the doubts before. The Eagles’ 2017 fourth-round draft choice out of San Diego State is listed at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, though closer to 5-6, has been dealing with the doubters all of his life.
Pumphrey enters Eagles’ training camp with a whole new catalog of things to prove. First and foremost, can he make the defending Super Bowl champions?
Last summer, he rushed 49 yards on 26 carries for 49 yards and picked up 72 yards on 13 receptions before his regular season was scuttled with a torn hamstring. The time off allowed Pumphrey to gain 10 pounds of muscle and give him time to learn the Eagles’ offense.
The version of Pumphrey that the Eagles expected is the player he plans to be this season.
“I played at around 170, 175 when I was in college, and right now, I feel great,” Pumphrey said. “All off-season, I was running at this weight, so I feel a lot more comfortable and stronger now. My legs feels stronger and I feel a lot more explosive coming out of my breaks.
“I’m just trying to put it all together. I know what to expect, as opposed to last year, I was thinking too much about what I have to do, my assignment. Now, I’m able to play fast and it’s back to football.”
Right now, Pumphrey finds himself in a loaded—and crowded—situation. On the Eagles’ depth chart he’s listed behind Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Corey Clement, batting with Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones and undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, Josh Adams, out of local Council Rock South.
Pumphrey says he did a lot of soul-searching in the offseason. He stresses he’s not only stronger on the field but stronger off mentally off of it.
“Being small, I’ve always had the doubters and the tests,” Pumphrey said. “At some point in time, I thought is this for me, because the fans kind of got to me a little bit. I did a lot of thinking and looking in the mirror, talking to coaches and stuff and they know why I’m here and they believe in me.
“And I believe in myself. I just know what I have to do. The coaches tell me what I have to do and I put it all together. This is the biggest test I’ve faced so far ever. I’ve always been the fastest player on the field, and you question sometimes whether or not you’re good enough.”
Pumphrey wants a chance to return punts or kicks. Right now, he’s not in the Eagles’ main rotation.
“It’s about proving myself again,” Pumphrey said. “When I get my chances, I have to make the most of showcasing my ability.”