It’s a Hail Mary-dream-come-true.
A New Jersey dental hygienist's invention is now being used by the Philadelphia Eagles after she took a shot and mailed the device to the team’s head coach over the summer on a wing-and-a-prayer.
"All I did, I sent Chip Kelly a note and said, I know you use color squares and pictures for signs, I thought maybe you might like this," Jill Cakert, 56, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer of her unlikely association with the NFC East-leading Eagles. "If nothing else happens in my life with the Signalfan, at least I made it to the Eagles."
The Signalfan would be the color-coded contraption Cakert reportedly developed -- and patented -- six years ago to assist the softball players she coaches as a volunteer with relaying game signs.
To her surprise, Kelly reportedly mailed a reply to her summertime letter with a check for $25 -- the Signalfan costs $24.99 -- along with a short note reading, “It’s been a big help!! Great idea!! Chip Kelly.”
"I have no clue what they're using it for," Cakert told The Inquirer. "They have so much going on on the sidelines, you see Chip Kelly with his tongue out talking, somebody doing hand signals. They could be using it as a decoy for all I know."
Not in doubt is how actively Philadelphia coaches are seemingly employing the Signalfan during games.
The Inquirer reports Eagles intern R.J. Harvey can often be seen maneuvering the Signalfan’s “six baseball-bat-shaped, 9-inch blades (fanning) out in all directions,” in various, color-coordinated patterns, as if to relay varied signals from sideline coaches to personnel on the field.
Kelly, for his part, has reportedly remained coy on the role of the Signalfan, recently saying during a news conference, “It's just another way to communicate what we're doing on game days.”
But that hasn’t reduced the joy Cakert feels when she sees her handiwork in action on TV.
“Oh, my God, I just saw it," the mother of three and grandmother of two told The Inquirer last week while watching a video of an Eagles game at her home. "This is so exciting. We are so psyched that they would keep winning."
The Signalfan has its own website, on which Cakert wrote, "Coaches! 'The Signalfan' (Pat:D591,622) is an innovative way to communicate with athletes. The clearly visible color blades make it easy for your players to read signs while keeping your opponents guessing as they sort through thousands of possible combinations! Use the same signals all season by disguising them with the use of indicator blade(s), or changing the number, position, or direction of the blades. Now being used in the US, Canada, and Japan."
And -- of course -- in Philadelphia.