They happened to be visiting Mississippi State the same weekend, a young cornerback from Brunswick, Ga., and a teenage defensive lineman from Yazoo City, Miss.
That was 12 years ago, now Darius Slay and Fletcher Cox are together again.
When the Eagles acquired Slay from the Lions last month, it reunited Slay and Cox, who were teammates at Mississippi State before they both became all-pro defensive players in the NFL.
“Fletcher and I came into Mississippi State together, we both signed out of high school together, but I had to take the junior college route and he went straight there, so we’ve been knowing each other since high school,” Slay said Wednesday. “We were on the same visit. Man, it’s a good thing for me to be on a team with a classmate and I’m looking forward to going out there and sharing the field with him once again and compete with him.”
Slay signed with Mississippi State at the same time as Cox — here’s Mississippi State’s release announcing the signings — but had to spend two years at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss., before arriving in Starkville.
Cox entered the NFL draft after his junior year, so Slay and Fox were only together one year, and not surprisingly the Bulldogs had the No. 16 defense in the BCS that year.
The Eagles drafted Cox in the first round in 2012, and he’s made five Pro Bowls and was first-team all-pro in 2018. The Lions drafted Slay in the second round a year later, and he’s a three-time Pro Bowler and all-pro in 2017.
Slay said he spoke with Cox the night before he was shipped to the Eagles.
“He called me and he just said, ‘Man, I heard we’re trying to get you,’ and he just started explaining to me what to expect coming to Philly (from) the fans and from the owners. He said the owners are straightforward and honest and (the players) treat each other like brothers, they go out there and play ball for each other. And he said the fans will go crazy, he said they’re going to let you know when you’re playing good and let you know when you’re playing bad and I said I look forward to that. I want to know when I’m playing bad myself.”
In his seven years in Detroit, the Lions never won a division title (they haven’t since 1993), never won a playoff game (they haven’t since 1991) and reached the postseason just twice.
He joins a team that’s won more playoff games since 2017 than the Lions have won since 1953.
“Talking to Fletcher, man, that’s what really convinced me, ‘Yeah, this is where I’m supposed to be,’” Slay said. “He just told me all the positive things, consistently going to the playoffs, something I haven’t been doing and something I look forward to doing, so I want to be a part of something great. Fletcher really put it in my head, ‘This is where you need to be, man, this is where it’s at man, we’re winning, the fans will love you.’”
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