I was meant to be here.

It’s kind of funny how the same thing that might make you a bad fit for one team, might make you the perfect fit for the next one.

When I got traded to the Eagles, the media experience was kind of crazy because I for sure was one of the best players on the Lions defense at the time. I was doing my job at a high level. But if I’m being honest, me and the coach didn’t always see eye to eye on the type of leader I am. He had a different vision. I think it’s a generational thing. Some coaches want the leaders on the team to be gut-checking everybody in the room, like a Lawrence Taylor, or a Ray Lewis. Coaches will give you speeches all day about how old-school players did this, said that, and now he’s in the Hall of Fame, da da da. O.K., that’s cool. But people don’t always have to lead that way. I can’t fake it. I can only be Slay. So we never connected on that, and I ended up getting traded. That’s just the business. 

But I came to Philly with the same mindset: I’m gonna be Slay no matter what. And the thing about this team, man, they accepted me off the bat.

Last summer, when training camp rolled around, we had to vote for captain. I didn’t really know how it would go, but something about me is that I’ve never been a captain. Not in high school. Not when I was thuggin’ it out in JUCO. Not at Mississippi State. So we all go into the room and vote, and Coach is supposed to make the announcement the next day. I go home after practice and I’m chilling. Next thing you know, I get a text. It’s from Coach. I read it, and I’m just like, Dang.

“Congratulations man, you’re a captain.”

Coach and everybody knew how big it was for me. They knew the work I put in. My teammates will be the first to tell you, “Slay might joke a lot, but when Slay is competing?? He’s locked in. He knows what his job is, and he’s willing to sacrifice whatever to win.”

That’s the thing that makes this team great as a whole. We’re not pointing any fingers — this is not a me-me-me group. Nobody over the squad. One band, one sound. You know what I’m saying? 

Jackson Krule/The Players’ Tribune

It started during training camp. We knew back then we were probably going to be pretty good. It wasn’t like a midseason thing like, “Oh, bro, we’re really good.” Nah, nah, nah. All of us kind of felt that presence during OTAs. After we signed A.J., you could kind of start to see it all falling into place.

All of us on the team were basically helping coach each other. A.J. helped me cover receivers, I helped A.J. know DB tendencies. It was a whole family thing. We were just looking at each other like, “Bruh, we could be like … real good.” Fletcher, he compared it to his Super Bowl team, when they were winning the same way. He said, “Man, it’s the feeling.”

You start to think, “O.K., that team went 11–5…. Imagine what this team could do.”

– Darius Slay

I don’t like to compare teams, but you understand the feeling of a team. My 2014 team in Detroit, when we went 11–5, we had a lot of talent. We had a good mixture. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah, myself, Calvin Johnson, Glover Quin, DeAndre Levy, Tulloch. I had a lot of guys, professional guys, who were at the top of their game and who played for each other. Then I got to this Eagles team, and we have the same type of caliber players. We have Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Sweat, Reddick. And then you have BG, Kyzir, and T.J. Then you have myself at corner, and James Bradberry. 

You start to think, “O.K., that team went 11–5…. Imagine what this team could do.”

One of the biggest things with Coach is, he does a great job at just making us feel like a family. I remember the first week he came in the building he put a basketball hoop up. And so we have a shootout every other day. You can tell that he enjoys coming to work, he loves coaching us and being around us. Oh, and he can shoot, too, haha. Coach was a hooper. (He can’t outshoot me, though.)

But if I’m being real — the fact that I’m finally accepted by my head coach, that means everything. 

Jackson Krule/The Players’ Tribune

Coach is from a younger generation. He’s younger than a lot of other head coaches from back when I was coming up. He has a little more of a fun personality. He likes us coming to work smiling every day. I love Coach because he preaches the same thing about team org and stuff, just like Caldwell used to do. And Caldwell was a big-time father figure for a lot of guys in that locker room in Detroit. Sirianni was the OC, and with Caldwell being the head coach, you can just see the influence. You can tell Sirianni’s from that same coaching tree.

He’s always reminding us that this is our home. We’re welcome to the building at any time. I can call Conway anytime, and talk to him about anything, and I can call Sirianni, the same way. And for him being the head man, that’s real. The whole staff is like that. It just feels like a great, family-oriented type of building. And that’s the kind of thing I love to be around. I tell my group, “I know this is a business, but we could be a family if y’all want to. I’m not here to force nobody to hang with nobody, but the opportunity’s there, every week.”

Jalen, he’s been a leader since Day One. Me and Jalen been cool, man. Ever since he stepped his foot in the building, I’ve been a big brother to him. 

I’d go to war with any of these guys, any day.

– Darius Slay

What kind of made him The Guy to me, was when we played the Colts back in Week 11. We were down like 16–10, or something like that, and then our defense went and got the stop. But A.J. gets stripped on the next play. He fumbles. So we have three minutes left on the clock, and we get the stop again. Hurts’s squad goes out there. And Hurts, man, his composure was so crazy. On their final drive, they scored a TD to win it. 

Jalen had been great in every other game we played, but that moment just showed me the composure he has as a QB. And I think it brought us together as a team, too. Because a lot of guys would kind of go in there with their head down when somebody just got stripped and now you only got three minutes left. Like, “Bro, what y’all doing??” Da da da. Nobody’s saying that here. Everybody kind of knuckled up, strapped it up, and went back out and won it. 

I think everybody who was on the sideline witnessed greatness that day. It was like, Yeah, I can ride with bruh all day. 

Man, the energy in the locker room that day…. We turned some YoungBoy on, and we were in there, jumping around, going wild. And then on top of that, Indy was Coach’s old team, and they had just fired his mentor. That’s why I feel like that game was so big. Everybody wanted to do it for Coach and Jalen, for sure.

That type of energy is what makes me want to go above and beyond for these guys.

Jackson Krule/The Players’ Tribune

Hurts is one of the guys where you invite him over, and if he can make it, he’s going to make it. (And show up with crawfish, real talk!) When it comes to his leadership, it’s crazy for him to be that young because I don’t know if that had a lot to do with him playing for Nick Saban or whatever, but he came into the game already a pro. Like I’m saying, attention to detail. How he watched film, how he talked to the media, how he answered questions. I’m looking at him like, Dang, this little kid here. I didn’t know how to talk to the media until probably year four. And he was out here, using big words, and all kinds of stuff!! I’m like, “Goddawg, bro, you the dictionary too??” Hahah. 

I’d go to war with any of these guys, any day.

When I met JB, man, he was a great guy and a great player. To let a guy like that walk off the field … I just don’t understand that at all. Because he was one of the best players on that defense, at the time. He just gave y’all a Pro Bowl season the year before, and he got released the next year. So it didn’t make sense to me. But I always tell him, shoot, I’m glad he came to us, because he’s sure having another Pro Bowl season over here, too.

T.J. Edwards going crazy. I think he’s playing at a high, high level. I know everybody talks about our pass rushing that’s turning the ball over, but the two linebackers in the middle are playing extremely great ball. T.J. is really the commander of the defense. He gives us the calls, puts us in the right position to make the plays. You just see him running, sideline to sideline. And he does that every Sunday, man. His body takes a beating, and he comes out there every Sunday, and runs on the sideline, smacking folks in the face. I’m talking about really smacking folks. T.J. running through folks’ souls, bruh.

He’s got a bright, bright future, for sure. Him and Kyzir. I remember in the preseason, when I knew Kyzir was the truth. Kyzir has always been flying around and running everywhere. I don’t know how the Chargers let Kyzir go, because buddy’s a dawg. We played the Jets in preseason, and, mannn, he read the quarterback and jumped a little curl around and picked it. I’m like, Aww yeah, Kyzir, go crazy

We got some dawgs, bruh. Y’all already know.

And the biggest dawg of all? YOU TALKING TO HIM.

Jackson Krule/The Players’ Tribune

It’s funny, everybody was hyping up the Justin Jefferson matchup back in September, and I didn’t really get it. I just looked at it like a regular game at first. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the best receivers in the league — by far one of the best. And he had just had a great game against the Packers. But the media was acting like he didn’t have to go against me. You know what I’m saying? They came into the week like, “They got a good DB corps over there, but I don’t know if they can contain him.” 

I was hearing that all week. And I’m thinking, y’all are acting like I’m not a four-time Pro Bowler, All-Pro corner, you know what I’m saying? It was like, Alright, y’all gotta stop playing with my name. It’s no offense to Justin at all. Justin’s a good guy, smooth. But I had to let it be known … I ain’t nothing to play with, either!

Philly fans, baby, we gotta take it one game at time.

– Darius Slay

And you know what’s so funny? My son is 15 and guess who his favorite receiver is? Guess who I’m hearing about all the time at home? 

“Justin Jefferson.”

You know I was teasing him a little bit after I locked up his GUY. Hahaaaa. He was like, “Dang Dad, you locked up my favorite receiver.” I said, “That’s for you, boy. Yeah, we out here!” Hahah.

That’s the thing about this squad. We’ve all had that chip on our shoulder at some point or another. Especially with Hurts — everybody thinking he wasn’t ready for this job, ready for this spotlight. He’s proving everybody wrong. He’s a franchise quarterback. 

We never went into this season thinking we were underdogs. We don’t fear nothing. So, I’m ready. I’m damn proud of this group — this family.

Jackson Krule/The Players’ Tribune

Philly fans, baby, we gotta take it one game at time. I know how y’all get, so don’t think too far ahead. We just got to take care of the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

We’ll see you this weekend. 

Y’all know how we coming.

#PHILLY #Darius #Slay #Players #Tribune

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