Mike Patterson was on a roll.
Despite not playing football – or even having a real interest in the game – until his freshman year in high school, he developed into one of the nation’s best defensive tackles and helped USC win back-to-back National Championships in 2003 and 2004.
In February 2005, Patterson watched the Philadelphia Eagles play in Super Bowl XXXIX, and two months later, was their first-round pick in the NFL Draft.
“It was exciting. So many emotions all at once-type of thing,” said Patterson, who was an All-America as a senior. “Especially since I already knew about the Eagles and how good a team they were. I definitely was excited. Going in, I just felt like we definitely would go to the playoffs.
“Just all the experience that was around me. You had Trot (Jeremiah Trotter), Jevon Kearse, Darwin Walker, Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard, Sheldon Brown. I mean, you had so many good players on the defense that it’s kind of hard to mess up.”
And it helps when you’re anxious to learn from veteran teammates.
“I hung out with the guys from the defensive line. I talked to Darwin Walker a lot and Hollis Thomas. I always liked to hear what they say, how they played against certain people, or how they played against certain plays,” said Patterson, who became the permanent starter at defensive tackle 13 games into his rookie season. “That’s the key thing. You always get information to help you further your game. Those guys, they never shied away from trying to help you out on doing things. They always tried to help you try to figure technique.”
Patterson showed the technique of a running back – well, what a 6-foot, 292-pound running back may look like – when the Eagles played San Francisco in the third game of the 2006 season. On a goal-line stand, he recovered a 49ers fumble and returned it 98 yards for what would be his first and only career touchdown.
“Yeah, it was pretty exciting and tiring at the same time,” Patterson said. “We had a goal-line defense and there were pretty much all big guys out there. We had like six defensive linemen in. At first, I thought maybe the ball was dead because I don’t think I got up right away to run because I thought maybe the whistle was blown because there were bodies all over me. Once I got the ball though, I just got up and ran.”
With the Eagles for eight (2005-12) of his 10 NFL seasons, Patterson spent the final two (2013-14) with the division-rival New York Giants.
“Well, Giant fans are more mellow. I would say that,” he laughed. “I don’t think there’s any comparison to Philly fans. I think they’re just one of a kind. They bleed and die green. I didn’t feel that way with the Giant fans.”
Proving to be reliable week in and week out, Patterson was arguably the most underrated player on Philadelphia’s defense. What’s one of his fondest memories from those days?
“Just having an opportunity to be with those guys that I played with,” Patterson said. “It was just a great honor and such a great defense at the time with (defensive coordinator) Jim Johnson. It was just an awesome experience to be around such great players and coaches.
“(I’m proud) that I was able to play for 10 years. That’s a big accomplishment. Just be able to survive that game for that long and making it out healthy and not have to worry about major injuries from playing.”
Patterson’s playing days also led to him and his wife, Bianca, choosing to make their home in Seattle, Washington.
“After my last season with the Giants, me and my wife were trying to figure out where to live,” Patterson said. “We knew we wanted to come back to the West Coast, but we didn’t want to go back to California necessarily. I remember when we played against the Seahawks, how nice it was, and was just drawn to the city.”