As kickoff before the most important game of his life neared, Brandon Brooks realized something wasn't quite right.
He hadn't vomited.
The Eagles' right guard has moved past the anxiety issues that forced him to miss two games last season, but he hasn't dropped a ritual he picked up when he entered the league in 2012. Normally, every game morning, Brooks wakes up and vomits. Every once in about eight games, it doesn't happen, but this was the NFC Championship Game and shortly before the game started, nothing had happened yet.
Finally, it did and then he was ready to go.
"As weird and as bad as that sounds, I felt cool, I felt good," Brooks said. "That's really what I needed, to be honest. When I threw up, it was like it was game day, just like any game day."
It might not sound like the healthiest thing, to rely on throwing up before every game, but Brooks has come an incredibly far way since last year, when he realized his trouble with anxiety, owned it and took the steps to control it.
This season, Brooks had his first Pro Bowl season, but perhaps more importantly, he didn't miss any of the Eagles' 16 regular season game or the two playoff games. He'll be starting in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
"My mindset it so much further than it was last season as far as dealing with it," Brooks said. "You're going to have situations where you're going to feel it come on. And really how you handle it in that split second is going to tell you if you have a grasp on it or if you're just kind of holding it down for a little bit. There's been situations where I feel the anxiety come on but I know what it is, so I just don't let it affect me the way it did last year."
Brooks, 28, admitted this week life would have been a lot easier if he had discovered how to identify and deal with his anxiety much earlier. Oh well, going through something has helped create his character.
Because of the way he's handled his anxiety this season, Brooks is having fun playing football again. He no longer focuses on each mistake and obsesses about being perfect.
Adversity has a real way of putting things in perspective.
"When you go through something real like that, man, the things you thought you were worried about, they don't matter," Brooks said. "For me, with the anxiety and the way I looked at it, after going through that and being around this group up front, I just realized there was no need for me to think of the game like that. There's far worse things that I can worry about and have anxiety about than this game. Going through that, it actually made me have a lot more fun playing. I'm not necessarily worried about making mistakes. Obviously, you want to go out there and do the best you can and you have a job to do.
"You make mistakes, man, it is what it is. Life goes on. You don't want to make that, but it happens. I just have a lot more fun with the game, man. Probably individual, I'm probably a lot more confident and comfortable in my skin."
While Brooks' anxiety is the most dramatic example, he's not the only member of the Eagles' offensive line that had gone through some adversity. Really, all five guys who start for the Eagles have gone through something.
Brooks had his anxiety. Halapoulivaati Vaitai had one of the worst debuts imaginable and had fans writing him off, but he's taken over for Jason Peters this year and has done a great job. Stefen Wisniewski came to Philadelphia as a backup and had to fight his way into the starting left guard job this year. Jason Kelce had the worst year of his career in 2017 and heard it plenty from fans; he's rebounded to have an All-Pro season. And Lane Johnson, although it was more self-inflicted, has served two suspensions totaling 14 games.
All five have something to prove.
"I think it helps your perspective on things," Wisniewski said. "I think when you just start and play well and nothing happens to you, you might take it for granted. I think when you go through some kind of adversity like we've all gone through, you start to appreciate it more. I think people who have a grateful attitude toward their situation are generally going to work harder and just have a better heart and ultimately are going to play better."