Like Cristin McLemore before him, Jeff Maehl was a tough, gritty receiver who became a fan favorite by making big plays.
Special delivery: Maehl’s diving grab against USC in October 2010, the second of his three tds on the night, helped propel the Oregon Ducks to the national championship game that year (Harry How, Getty Images photo).
Today Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles traded reserve lineman Nate Menkin to Houston for the rights to Maehl, making him the sixth former Duck on the team’s 88-player roster, joining Will Murphy, Isaac Remington, Dennis Dixon, Casey Matthews and Patrick Chung.
Only Chung and Matthews are a safe bet to make the team. NFL franchises have to cut their squads to 53 players by August 31st.
At Oregon the 6-0, 185 Maehl set a school record with 77 catches in his senior year, for 1076 yards and 12 touchdowns, also a school record. He became Oregon’s career leader in receptions after being converted from defensive back for the last three games of his freshman year.
The Maehl-man had a knack for the big play, leaping high in the air to catch the two-point conversion that tied the National Championship Game with Auburn, grabbing the 3 tds against USC earlier that year, including the diving catch at the goal line, tipping the ball to himself reminiscent of Lynn Swann’s famous Super Bowl catch.
The quintessential Maehl moment came against Oregon State on December 3rd, 2009, Trailing the Beavers 30-21 midway through the 3rd quarter the Ducks faced 4th and 6 at the OSU 35. Kelly signaled go and the sign holders flashed the play. Jeremiah Masoli, who always looked to #23 in those situations, fired a slant pass to his favorite wideout, with a defender all over him. Maehl hung on for the first down. LeGarrette Blount bounced off two tacklers for a 12-yard touchdown a few plays later, the Ducks storming back for the 37-33 win and the Rose Bowl.
Fans identified with the guy who wasn’t big, wasn’t tall and wasn’t particularly fast (4.56 in the 40) but always seemed to make the big play.
He’ll have a fresh shot in Philly, playing for a coach who believed in him enough to call his number in a dozen crucial situations. The Eagles recently lost receiver Jeremy Maclin to a torn ACL, and had another receiver, Riley Cooper, draw fire for insensitive racial remarks he made at a Kenny Chesney concert.
In two years in the NFL the former Duck has been chiefly a practice squad player. He’s appeared in three games, with no receptions.