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April 19, 2020

Singleton: ‘Calgary just embraced me and loved me’

Dave Chidley/CFL.ca`

TORONTO — It’s been an off-season like no other for most football players, and Alex Singleton is no different.

“(I’m) just surviving, my family is healthy and we’re just back home in California,” Singleton said. “We’re just trying to get through this crazy time with a positive attitude.”

During his three-year stint in the Canadian Football League, the linebacker had a dominant stretch of play with the Calgary Stampeders, where he was able to add several trophies and honours to his mantle.

He was able to make the transition back down south, joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. After a promising first season with the NFC East squad, he’ll continue to push up the depth chart this upcoming season in Philadelphia.

On the latest episode of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips, Davis Sanchez and Donnovan Bennett spoke to the former Stampeders standout about his CFL career, his transition to the NFL and how he’s staying busy.


Episode 206: Patiently waiting with Alex Singleton

EPISODE OVERVIEW: The boys are joined by former Calgary Stampeder linebacker Alex Singleton, who waited patiently for his shot in the NFL and was finally rewarded when he was promoted to the active roster of the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2019 season. Alex reflects back fondly on his time in Canada and gives his thoughts on his former quarterback’s status among the CFL’s all-time greatest gunslingers.

EPISODE RUNDOWN: Armanti Edwards signs with Edmonton (1:41); Potential effects of the XFL folding (4:07); Lirim Hajrullahu headed to the NFL (8:45); Checking in with Alex Singleton (12:17); Which former teammates of yours belong in the NFL? (21:50); First-hand observations on talent difference between NFL and CFL (24:18); Getting waived after pre-season, almost coming back to Calgary for Labour Day (28:39); Thoughts on Bo Levi Mitchell (37:51); Virtual workouts with Special Olympics Calgary (46:19); Alex’s latest binge-watch picks (47:29).


 

Following his collegiate career at Montana State, Singleton signed with the Seattle Seahawks on a three-year contract. Unfortunately, he was released early in the 2015 season, finishing the year with stints on the practice rosters of the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings.

Because of his National status, he was taken by the Calgary Stampeders with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 CFL Draft. Instead of bouncing around with different teams in the NFL for another year, Singleton chose to head north and join the Stamps for the 2016 campaign.

The move proved to be the right one for Singleton, as he became one of the Stamps’ biggest defensive playmakers almost immediately. He featured in all 18 games for Calgary in his first campaign, registering 65 tackles, nine special teams tackles and three forced fumbles.

2017 served as the breakout year for him. Singleton flew around the field, amassing 123 tackles, two special teams tackles, four sacks, one interception and a forced fumble in 18 outings.

He was named a West Division and CFL All-Star for the first time in his career and also took home the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award at the 2017 Shaw CFL Awards. He was also nominated for the Most Outstanding Canadian.

Singleton and the Stamps were still looking to finish off their season with a title, as they had come up just short against Ottawa and Toronto in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The 26-year-old posted an identical 123 tackles in 2018 to go along with six special teams tackles and two forced fumbles. He never missed a game across his three CFL seasons.

Once again, he received West Division and CFL All-Star nods following the season, and he helped the Stamps reach the top of the mountain once again, beating the REDBLACKS at the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw.

That following off-season, the Stampeders released Singleton in order for him to pursue NFL opportunities. It came down to a decision between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles in the end. He ultimately landed with the Eagles.

“I thought it was a better option for me personally,” Singleton said. “And then their scheme how they run that four-three instead of a three-four (defence). All the little things that I think played well into my hands. So that’s why I picked Philly.

“Day one of camp, I believe I was a three at MIKE, a four at SAM and like a two-and-a-half at WILL, because one of the guys that played WILL was coming off an ACL, so he was like half participation so it was an uphill battle, to say the least.”

Singleton impressed mightily during the preseason with the Eagles, coming up with 28 tackles and a forced fumble over the four games. However, on the final day of roster cuts, he was waived by Philadelphia.

He said that right after learning he was cut, he began talking to Dave Dickenson and John Hufnagel about a return to Calgary for the remainder of the 2019 season. He had even planned to be back in the city in time for the Labour Day Classic against the Edmonton Eskimos.

The two sides nearly had a deal done when Singleton was contacted by the Eagles again. They offered him a deal on the practice squad and he stuck with the NFL squad.

Calgary Stampeders linebacker Alex Singleton hoists the Grey Cup after defeating the Ottawa REDBLACKS. (The Canadian Press)

In October, Singleton earned a promotion to the active roster and served in a special teams role for Philadelphia for the remainder of the season.

Because of his ability to play a healthy amount of reps on both defence and special teams during his time in the CFL, Singleton was more than prepared for his new role.

“I still remember my first game in Seattle, I remember being dead,” Singleton said. “I remember not being able to breathe and then I remember the next day waking up and the coaches being like ‘Alright, we’ve got to today tomorrow’ and you’re like ‘Oh my God, I played 97 snaps, I played on all four special teams.’ You played 70 defensive plays and you’re just you’re like ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna be able to do that again.’

“And then all of a sudden, you go to the CFL, and now the special teams, there’s no more fair catch. It’s a 20-second play clock instead of a 40-second play clock, there aren’t as many TV timeouts, the clock stops under three minutes but before both halves. So all of a sudden, the game gets a lot faster and a lot more plays and so that was the one thing I would say, the speed of the game is much faster in the CFL compared to the NFL and it’s not even close.

“This year, playing in the fourth preseason game, I think I ended up playing like 120-something snaps, I played all four special teams and every defensive snap for that game. I just remember the whole time just being like, Wow — and most of the other guys were dead and dying — and I just remember looking around like ‘Man, this is not as bad as even playing defence in the CFL. This is nice. I’m not that tired.’

Singleton finished the season with five tackles while appearing in 10 games for the Eagles.

With a season on an active roster under his belt, Singleton is getting ready for the 2020 season with Philadelphia. Becasue of the COVID-19 outbreak, the team has been conducting OTA’s via zoom, doing meetings and workouts online.

When he’s not working on football, Singleton has gotten into Marvel movies, catching up on every movie in the franchise — in chronological order, of course.

Singleton is also working with several Special Olympics programs to do live workouts.

“I’m just trying to honestly get my sister to get up and get active during these crazy times,” Singleton said. “Her programs have been cancelled and everything so I’m just doing everything I can for her. Special Olympics Calgary reached out and Special Olympics Canada has reached out as well as Special Olympics Philadelphia so we’re trying to do as many workouts on Facebook Live as we can.”

CFL fans love players who have left it all on the field for their respective teams, and if they leave to try their hand at making it in the NFL, that love never wavers.

Singleton was one of the anchors on the Calgary defensive side of the football during one of the greatest runs of success in the franchise’s history.

By helping the Stampeders take home their eighth championship in franchise history, Singleton cemented his legacy in the city, and despite leaving for another opportunity, he’ll never forget his time north of the border.

“I love Calgary. One, because of the football accomplishments, but also the love for the city and the support,” he said. “I mean, the whole CFL was watching preseason games. You don’t expect that from a country of people but much less a city of people.

“You know the way Calgary just embraced me and loved me, I could do nothing but give half of that back and just kind of be supportive because I love that city. If it were all equal and all the same I would have chosen to stay in Calgary. So anything I can do to be their biggest supporter or biggest cheerleader ever you want to look at it. Ambassador whatever I’m all for it.

“And for the CFL in general because it gave me some of the best football memories of my life, if not the best so far and the best three years that I’ve had as an adult for sure.”