As the Eagles prepare for game day in the nation's capital, the mystique of Monday Night Football isn't lost on a couple of young defenders. Hundreds of thousands of children watch football on Monday night, and they all dream of buckling their chinstrap and suiting up for an NFL team under the bright lights. Few, of course, have the chance to live out that fantasy.
For rookie defensive end Brandon Graham, that dream comes true tonight.
"I'm very excited," Graham said. "I always dreamed about just playing that game, the last game of the week. Monday night is Monday night, everyone gets jacked up for it … it's just another game, but all eyes are on us now."
When the Eagles drafted Kurt Coleman in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, they knew Coleman had the talent and big-game experience even though he was a raw NFL prospect. But as coaches always say, if you're on an active roster, you better be prepared to play. Now the former Ohio State Buckeye will start his first NFL game in place of an injured Nate Allen, on Monday night no less.
Coleman said his experience playing in big collegiate games has taught him how to deal with the pressures of nationally televised games.
"Playing in a National Championship Game and playing in a Monday night football game, one might hold a little more weight than the other but really it's all about playing in high pressure situations," Coleman said. "How do you deal with it? Do you tense up or do you play loose? I play loose."
When the Buckeyes faced LSU in the 2007 BCS National Championship, Coleman was a sophomore playing in the biggest game of his life. What he discovered that night New Orleans was that if you can't keep your emotions in check, it's awfully difficult to perform on the biggest stages.
"That's really where I learned just to be loose," Coleman said, "because I was almost gassed before we even started playing I was so excited. My adrenaline was pumping, and after that situation I learned that I had to calm myself down before every game… and that's why I listen to R&B before I play."
Whatever it takes, Coleman will need to be ready tonight as he serves as the last line of defense against Donovan McNabb and the Redskins offense.
Rookies aren't the only ones who will make their first appearance under the bright lights of Monday Night Football later this evening. Ernie Sims, a first-round pick in 2006, has languished in Detroit where his teams won a total of 12 games over the course of four years.
The Lions are featured every year on Thanksgiving, but that's the only national exposure Sims ever received … until tonight.
"It's going to be really special for me. I'm just going to soak it all in and at the end of the day I'm just going to have the best game I can and make plays left and right and try to help my team out the best I can," Sims said.
And hundreds of thousands of young children will watch tonight hoping years from now they can suit up and play on Monday night.
*-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 2:00 p.m., November 15 *