It’s been a long road, but the Northeast graduate refuses to lose sight of his dreams.
All RaShaun Sligh wanted was a chance.
While it wasn’t the one he was expecting, he got it.
Sligh, a 2011 graduate of Northeast High School, was looking to get noticed by the Philadelphia Eagles, so while the team was holding organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia, he was holding up signs.
All he wanted was a chance.
“It was my idea, I thought it would be a fun way to get noticed, so I was always out there,” said Sligh, a receiver who helped lead the Vikings to a 2010 Public League championship. “It was unusual, but I wanted to get their attention.”
He might not have gotten the attention he wanted from the Eagles, but he did from the other Philadelphia professional football team.
“I was out there, doing what I always do, and Vince Papale saw me and came over to shake my hand,” Sligh said. “I thought he was just picking me up, telling me he supported me, but he started talking to me, and then he helped me get a tryout with the Soul.
“It’s such a blessing. I knew if I did this, something good would come out of it. My goal is the NFL, but the Soul is great. I can show them what I can do, maybe stick around and then who knows? It’s a chance.”
Sligh’s tryout went well.
On Thursday, he arrived at the Wells Fargo Center for practice at 7 a.m. and went through a variety of drills. After knocking off some rust, he started catching passes, and while he left without a contract, he definitely turned some heads.
Sligh was happy to be back in the game, especially because he never got closure from the sport he loves.
After excelling at Northeast, where he caught 25 passes for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season, he went on to play for Valley Forge Military Academy, and then enrolled at Temple, where the plan was to continue his football career.
Once there, he found out he was ineligible due to a transfer rule. That didn’t derail his dream, but money did.
“I think if I was playing, things would have turned out differently, but I had no money to pay for school, and I actually ended up homeless for a few months,” Sligh said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I would crash on friends’ couches, do whatever I could to get by. It was rough. I really wanted to get back in the game.
“I’m a positive person, and I believed I could do this. That’s why I’m out here doing it.”
Sligh has yet to earn his degree, but he still has high hopes of getting one. He is planning on going back to Temple to finish his schooling and get a degree in sports and recreation management.
But before he works on achieving that dream, he’s making sure he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to playing football for pay.
“I never had that senior year (in college) to play, that year to show everyone what I can do, and it’s hard to get noticed when you don’t have that,” Sligh said. “This is my senior year, this is my tryout. I’m out there telling them who I am and letting them know I can do this because that’s the best way for me to get noticed.”
Sligh has gained his share of exposure, but it hasn’t been easy.
Last week, when a storm rolled through South Philadelphia, Sligh was holding a sign that said, “RaShaun Sligh just wants an opportunity to be an Eagle!” When the temperatures were over 90 degrees, he was standing in the blazing sun making his case.
The weather wasn’t cooperative, but he got plenty of support from his friends and family.
“I’m blessed to have great family and friends,” said Sligh, who is staying with a friend in Fishtown while he auditions for the gig. “The Northeast community has been great. I haven’t been the best at keeping in touch with those guys, but they’ve been real supportive. The fans, and the players when they were going in, everyone supported me. I think they know how hard it is, and they respect what I’m doing.”
The other person who was very supportive was Papale, who parlayed an open tryout in the 1970s into getting signed by the Eagles.
“Me and Vince have a lot in common, but the big difference is he made the Eagles and I haven’t yet, that’s the big difference,” Sligh said. “I want to do what he did. I want to be that guy who was a longshot, but made it.”
Of course, Disney made Invincible, a movie out of Papale’s journey. Sligh is hoping to make a sequel.
“I don’t know any up-and-coming actors who could play me, but now? I’d say Michael B. Jordan,” Sligh said with a laugh. “I don’t know, it’s just so exciting. I really think if they give me a chance, I’m going to show them what I can do.
“I don’t want to just do this because of the glitz and glamour of playing in the NFL. I want to make a difference in the community. There is so many things I can do if I make the NFL. I’m just hoping my dream comes true.” ••