Purcell's NFL dream ends in disappointment
New Zealander Nic Purcell's fairytale shot at the NFL has reached an unhappy ending after he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in the final week of pre-season play.
Purcell had been considered a long shot to make the Eagles regular season roster after only taking up American football seriously a little over two years ago at a junior college in California.
But the 27-year-old, whose sisters Natalie, Charmian and Kalani have all played basketball for New Zealand, had received an unlikely opportunity when the Eagles invited him to their training camp.
The 2.01m Kiwi was trying out as an offensive tackle for the Eagles but was cut loose at the start of this week when the NFL franchise clipped their roster back to 75 players.
They will further reduce it to the regular season limit of 53 by the end of the week.
Purcell, who played provincial rugby for Thames Valley and was also part of the Waikato development system, had been embraced in Philadelphia as a feelgood story of potentially fairytale proportions.
Purcell had only dabbled in American football in New Zealand, with basketball his first love and then rugby enticing him to take his talents there.
But when he moved to the US with his American-born wife he enrolled at Southern California's Golden West College and ended up being co-opted on to the football team.
From there his intention had been to go to a division one college, with the University of Oregon the intended destination.
But NCAA regulators ruled him ineligible because of his previous sporting involvements in New Zealand, and it appeared his football career had reached a dead-end.
But then circumstances took a turn. Oregon coach Chip Kelly was appointed to the top job at the Eagles, he found out about Purcell's situation and invited him to Philadelphia's rookie camp where he impressed enough to make the main training camp.
Kelly said it had been a difficult time to cut so many players loose who had tried so hard to prove their worth.
"You start with 90 and end up with 53 and how that comes about is difficult," he told the Eagles website.
"Sometimes it's an injury for certain players and then they kind of understand I didn't make the team because I got hurt but other guys, they gave everything they had but it's just not in the cards for them right now. It is a difficult time."
It's not clear yet what Purcell's next move will be. History suggests second chances don't come round too often in the NFL.
- © Fairfax NZ News