Chosen by the Eagles in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft out of Kansas State, tackle Barrett Brooks arrived in Philadelphia and, well, could have been mistaken for a tourist.
"It was weird coming from the Midwest. Being from St. Louis, I wasn't used to driving and people parking in the middle of the road. Stuff like that and traffic the way it was, it was just totally new to me," Brooks says. "And I thought cheesesteaks were Steak-umms. I go into Ishkabibble's and I asked for a Steak-umm sandwich with cheese and they looked me like I was crazy, like I had three heads."
Brooks' rookie year with the Eagles was also Ray Rhodes' first season as a head coach. It was Jon Gruden's first year as an offensive coordinator. And it was offensive line coach Bill Callahan's first year in the NFL after spending the previous five seasons at the University of Wisconsin.
"It's funny, he would yell at me about stuff that the veteran players, he couldn't say to them," Barrett says. "He was just starting off, so how does he go to a guy like Guy McIntyre, who won Super Bowls playing for the 49ers, or Raleigh McKenzie, one of the original Hogs (with Washington), how do you go and tell them they're doing something wrong?
"What you do is yell at the rookies, and I just happened to be starting my rookie year. He'd be yelling at them, telling them what he wanted them to do, but he'd be yelling at me to transfer that information."
Did Brooks ask Callahan why he was being treated as a middleman?
"All the time. I talked to him when he was doing it," Brooks says. "'Why you always yelling at me for?' He said, 'You don't know what you don't know,' and walked away. That could have broken any other rookie. It was a hard way to realize that I really didn't know just the matter of way they take care of things in the NFL."
The Eagles took care of things rather well in 1995 and '96. Back-to-back 10-6 seasons saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 1992.
"It was a great mix of older guys and younger guys," Brooks says. "We had my (also drafted in the second round) partner, Bobby Taylor. They brought him in to stop (Dallas wide receiver) Michael Irvin. So, they knew exactly what they needed to do. And they had guys around us that could help us out and put us in the best situation we could be put in."
Following four seasons with Philadelphia, Brooks left as a free agent and played for Detroit, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh, where he helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL. Having seen it himself, what sets Eagle fans apart from others around the league?
"They feel a sense of ownership of their team. Not just ownership as in a Philadelphia Eagles fan, they feel as though they pay your salary," Brooks says. "They are the most passionate fans you can be around and they really feel as though they invested so much in you that they can say whatever they want to say and how they want to say it.
"Plus, they're pretty knowledgeable, too. They do their homework. Especially with the age of DVR, a lot of fans go and look at film and come to their own conclusion and sometimes it's right."
After retiring in 2006, Brooks went back to college and earned an MBA in healthcare administration, and went into the working world. However ...
"I said, 'You know, I want to go back to doing football.'"
Brooks landed an internship at NFL Films and worked with Eagles Hall of Fame quarterback Ron Jaworski.
"That transitioned into me doing a little radio and then NBC, at the time it was Comcast, gave me a shot," Brooks said.
With NBC Sports Philadelphia for the past five years, Brooks is an analyst on the Eagles' live pregame and postgame shows. He's rightfully found it rewarding to have worked his way up in the business.
"It means a little more than being handed to me like most guys coming out of the league," Brooks says. "I had to work for everything that I received as far as doing the things that I do on TV. I had to build credibility, not just to the people at NBC Sports, but also to the fans. They don't know me back to 1995. It's a new fan base now. I really had to gain their trust and they had to see the knowledge that I have and that they can trust what I'm saying."
Brooks and his wife, Sonji, have five children, and make their home in South Jersey. "It's around the corner from everywhere. I love being centralized here. I'm an hour and a half from downtown New York, an hour and a half from Baltimore, three hours from D.C., and 15 minutes from Philadelphia. It's just the best place to be."