One of the largest players on the Philadelphia Eagles roster is six foot nine and two quarters. He has an 86 inch wingspan. He runs a 4.9 40 yard dash. But the chances are that you don't even know who he is. No, he's not Chip Kelly's imaginary 6-11, 400 pound linebacker. And he's not U.S. Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who is also 6-9. However, like Villanueva, this mystery player is a defensive end. His name is Frances Mays, but you can call him Frank.
Mays signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft. Despite his impressive size, Mays was viewed as a raw prospect. After spending two years at a Central Lakes Community College, Mays transferred to Florida A&M where he played 21 total games. He tallied 68 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks during that time. Given Kelly's affinity for bigger players, it's no surprise to see that the Eagles were interested.
"They were one of the top [teams]," Mays said regarding the Eagles interest in him. "I was actually talking to a couple of other teams that said that they wanted me. Some of them wanted me at offensive line. Offensive tackle. I mean I could play offensive line but defensive line is definitely my surest."
Mays hails from Bemidji, Minnesota, which contains a population of around 13,400 people. As you might imagine, it's not exactly a football factory. "It's definitely a hockey town," Mays laughed. "You'll see a lot of people at football games. Football is definitely close to [first] but hockey is number one. Basketball is a distant third."
To no surprise given his height, hoops were the first sport that Mays tried out. It wasn't until his junior year of high school that he showed major interest in athletics, however. Prior to that Mays was largely spent time on music and academics. Mays remembers his first basketball game well.
"Everyone was pressuring to me to do it and I was like "Ah, I don't know." And then it was actually when I started playing basketball - I mean I suck at basketball, I wasn't good at basketball - but I came in... actually my junior year I started playing basketball, my senior year I started playing football. My junior year I came in, and then we had the house packed for a JV game because they all knew that I was playing because I was the tallest guy in the school. And so there was like 2 minutes left, everyone came there, the house was packed, they had signs outside and everything.
"I came in [to the game] and I went up and I shot a layup, I missed the layup, but I got a foul so they sent me to the line. So I'm sitting there, I'm eyeballing it and I'm like 'There's no way I'm going to make this free throw.' I missed the first one and I was like 'There's no way I'm going to make this free throw." So I took the ball, I threw it at the backboard, grabbed it, and slammed it in -- it hit the backboard and then bounced off the rim. They almost called me for the foul but it hit the rim so I was able to go in."
Mays' aggressive play and athleticism translated over to when he started playing football during his senior year of high school. He knows his massive size is what gives him a distinct advantage.
"When I get my arms extended - even though I only put up the 225 only 22 times - when I get my arms extended I can bench six, seven hundred pounds. No one really goes inside of me. I think that's my best part of the game. Getting in the quarterback's way. Making him blind towards the field is also a good strategy to get him hurried because he's focusing on the wide receivers and the cornerbacks, he's supposed to ignore the defensive line. But if he sees me coming, it's hard to ignore that."
To say Mays has an uphill battle to make the Eagles roster or even the practice squad would be an understatement. He's a complete long shot who is stuck behind a number of other defensive ends on the Philadelphia depth chart. But if Mays ever does make something out of his size and potential, it won't just be quarterbacks who find him hard to ignore.