It happened so fast, a full two weeks ago, and in that time, Darius Slay has allowed it to all sink in.
"I'm a Philadelphia Eagle and it feels great!"
After seven seasons in Detroit, Slay has his arms full around the idea that he's bringing his Pro Bowl cornerback game to Philadelphia.
"I'm a very humble guy, grateful for everything that I have, but I'm also confident as a football player and I think this is going to be a great fit," Slay said on Thursday. "You aren't going to win every time out there. You're going to get beat. But you have to just come back and keep fighting, and that's what I do."
The Eagles expect Slay to hold down one of the starting outside cornerback jobs in 2020 and beyond and they expect him to be one of the leaders in a locker room that has strong ideals and a winning sense of purpose. Slay rejoins coordinator Jim Schwartz, who selected Slay in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State. Back then, Slay was a fresh-faced kid seeing the NFL for the first time. Now he's an established veteran, a Pro Bowl player in each of the last three seasons, hoping to get a taste of consistent, high-level winning after reaching the postseason just two times – without a win – in his seven years with the Lions.
The changed landscape is just fine with Slay, who received a rave review of being an Eagle from his former college teammate, All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
"I'm blessed to be part of a great organization," Slay said as part of an exclusive Eagles Insider Podcast presented by Lincoln Financial Group. You can listen to the entire, wide-ranging interview on Friday’s episode. "I'm looking forward to seeing how city life is. I'm just ready. I'm very, very excited. Fletcher, man, he convinced me big time. He was like, 'This is the place to be. You're going to love it here.' I knew they were coming to get me last year (the Eagles were reportedly interested in trading for Slay prior to the 2019 trade deadline) I heard, so, shoot, I was ready. I'm looking forward to it."
It was never fun for the Eagles playing against the Lions when Slay was on the field. In the 103 games Slay played in Detroit, he recorded 19 interceptions, one of them against quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles during Wentz's rookie season of 2016. You remember the game, right? The Eagles were 3-0 coming out of the bye and everyone was hyped up on Wentz and new Head Coach Doug Pederson and they fell way behind before taking a lead in the fourth quarter. Detroit came back and went ahead 24-23 and with under two minutes remaining, Wentz threw deep down the field for receiver Nelson Agholor, only to have Slay make a spectacular interception to clinch the win for Detroit.
It was Wentz's first career interception, and while it ended the Eagles' chances of victory, Slay came away impressed.
"I didn't buy the hype before today, but he is the real deal," Slay said of Wentz back then. "He doesn't play like a rookie."
Now Slay and Wentz are teammates and he's buying all the hype.
"I have great feelings. I like his confidence as a guy and as a player. I like his poise in the pocket," Slay said. "He's a great quarterback. He makes plays. He keeps his eyes down the field and he takes hits. I saw a guy (in Detroit) take hits, (Matthew) Stafford (Lions quarterback) and get right back up. Carson's like that. He's got what you need in a quarterback. He's the face of the franchise and I'm looking forward to becoming better on defense to help him on offense."
The Eagles have loaded up the defense in free agency as they've added Slay and hybrid safety Will Parks to the secondary, Jatavis Brown at linebacker, and Javon Hargrave at defensive tackle. Slay, who will wear No. 24 in honor of his favorite athlete from his childhood, the late and great Kobe Bryant, is the centerpiece of the roster-building to date.
With that attention – the Eagles traded a third-round draft pick and a fifth-round draft pick in April to Detroit to acquire Slay – comes a lot of scrutiny. That's just fine with Slay. He doesn't back down from anything.
"I'm going to be aggressive and I'm going to be out there working hard and having fun," he said. "I love this game. I'm going to be out there for my teammates and for the organization and the city. It just feels right for me. It feels great to be an Eagle."