WASHINGTON — With all due respect to Air Force and the rest of the University of Toledo football team, Eric Page will be the best player to step on the field Wednesday at RFK Stadium for the Military Bowl.
And as scary as the thought may be for Toledo fans, this could potentially be the final game in a midnight blue and gold uniform for the Springfield graduate.
The NFL requires prospective players to be three years removed from high school in order to be eligible for the draft, and Wednesday will mark the final game of Page’s junior season.
Page has made it clear he’s not interested in making the jump to the NFL quite yet, however. Shortly after arriving at UT’s team hotel Friday, Page reiterated that he’s “100 percent” committed to coming back for his senior season next year.
Page added that he plans to sit down with UT coach Matt Campbell and wide receivers coach Jason Candle to plot the best course for himself and his future.
That could include going through the NFL evaluation service, which projects where a player would be selected should he declare for the draft.
“I haven’t thought about it that much,” Page said. “We have another game left in the season, and after that then I can give more thought to it.”
Sophomore quarterback Terrance Owens, who is one of Page’s roommates, also said Page hasn’t talked much about his future and the possibility of one day playing in the NFL.
“He just talks a lot about this game coming up,” Owens said. “It’s going to be an exciting game, and he’s just focused on this game.”
Even Campbell admits he hasn’t spent much time considering the possibility of life without Page next year.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit,” Campbell said. “What I told Eric is we’ll sit down at the end of the season and find out what’s the best decision for him and his family. I think Eric Page is as good as there is in the country, so for him it’s a matter of what the NFL says.”
Page has already made a case for a future in pro football by turning in another record-setting season for the Rockets.
The 5-10, 180-pound wideout became UT’s all-time leading receiver earlier this year and currently has 293 career receptions, which puts him tied for fourth with Western Michigan’s Jordan White on the Mid-American Conference’s all-time list.
Page is also UT’s career leader with 3,387 receiving yards and is tied with Lance Moore for most career touchdown receptions (25).
And that’s just a third of what Page does for Toledo on a regular basis. As a kick returner he ranks first in school history with an average of 26.7 yards per return in his career, and he averaged 10.9 yards per punt return with one touchdown this season.
All told, Page led the MAC and was sixth in the nation this season with 169.3 all-purpose yards per game.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t start playing wide receiver until coming to college.
“He’s a fluid, natural athlete,” Campbell said. “I think since the day he stepped on campus, the thing that I can tell you about Eric Page — and I think more than anything with his athleticism — you come out and watch him on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and you watch him practice, he’s the same Eric Page that you see on Saturday.
“And I think that’s what makes a young man like Eric Page go from a good football player to an elite level, and that’s when you know you’ve got somebody special.”
His coaches and teammates agree that Page’s greatness has rubbed off on the rest of the squad.
“He knows how to read defenses, he knows where to be at all times, and it seems like he’s always open,” Owens said. “He makes it very easy for me. He’s a great person to have on the field.”