It was a Wednesday night, just a few sleeps before the Eagles lined up against Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field on November 5th, and defensive end Brandon Graham was doing a walk-and-talk session with a few dozen Season Ticket Members and he stopped in the tunnel where the players come in and out on gamedays.
Graham, the personable veteran who Sunday will set a franchise record by playing in his 189th regular-season game as an Eagle, stopped and reflected on a question about the feeling he gets running out during pregame introductions and hearing the fans, nearly 70,000 of them, cheering and yelling his name and showing their appreciation for all that he's done in his time in Philadelphia.
"It's my 14th season (tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik for most in Eagles history) here and I can't tell you how much it means to me to be here, every day," he said. "I wish the days could slow down. I am cherishing every moment, because I don't know how many more I'm going to get.
"I just want to give it my all because, man, I love this so much. Every part of it is just so much of my life. Anything I can do to help this team win, I'm doing it. So, when I'm standing in the tunnel and my name is about to be called, my heart is just pounding and I'm so hyped and happy. How many more times am I going to hear my name called?"
A first-round draft pick in 2010, Graham is the dean of Philadelphia professional athletes and, over the course of history, one of the most beloved. His career has been one of perseverance and resilience. Graham has overcome two major injuries (an ACL in 2010 and an Achilles tendon in 2021), he's been with four head coaches, has been tried at multiple positions. For many years, Eagles fans lamented the choice of Graham in that NFL Draft, but his seasons of improvement and finding his place and the big plays – oh, the big plays – have won everyone over. He is one of them. They are part of him.
"The fans, they can get after you and I'm saying that as a good thing," Graham says, smiling. "They love the Eagles more than anything, so if we aren't doing our jobs, they are going to let us know all about it. I think for some guys it's tough. I admit early in my career, I would drive home from the facility and I would be listening to the radio and I heard what they were saying. It was tough. I didn't really have that feeling that I have now, the confidence of knowing what I can do.
"We started winning and then we won the Super Bowl and everything changed. Then you feel the love."
Graham says his career turned in 2017 when he contributed 9.5 quarterback sacks in the regular season and the Eagles reached the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the National Football Conference. The postseason went through Lincoln Financial Field and the Eagles responded with wins over Atlanta and Minnesota to reach Super Bowl LII.
In that game, of course, well, you know what happened. The Eagles toppled the mighty New England Patriots and Graham delivered one of the most iconic moments in Eagles history, sacking Patriots quarterback Tom Brady late in the game and forcing a fumble that defensive end Derek Barnett recovered. The takeaway led to a Jake Elliott field goal and a 41-33 lead that the Eagles preserved, and the team captured its first Super Bowl Championship and Lombardi Trophy.
"I've been asked about that play, I'd say, more than a million times," Graham said, laughing, "and I love it every time someone says something about it to me. Making that play and winning that game meant everything to me, this team, and the Eagles fans."
That was far from the end of his career, though. Graham was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 2020 season and then, in 2022, he came back from the torn Achilles tendon to record 11 quarterback sacks, his first season in double digits.
That year, Graham was also the team's nominee for the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented to a player who exhibits excellence on the field as well as a passion and commitment for making a difference off the field in the community.
And now here he is, in Year 14, savoring every moment in a rotational role at defensive end. Just a few days after his tunnel moment of reflection, Graham went out and helped the Eagles beat Dallas, 28-23, and he had everything to do with the win. Graham chased Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott hard enough to force Prescott to step out of bounds short of scoring on a two-point conversion and then later recorded back-to-back sacks of Prescott as the defense made an end-zone stand to preserve the win.
Vintage Graham. Hustle all the way. And a big, wide smile after the game.
"Man, I'm loving this," he said. "It's an amazing feeling. Big win for us. We have more work to do and I'm just happy to be here and doing what I'm doing. I want to keep this going for as long as I can keep helping this team win."