Terrence Brooks walked out of the Eagles’ locker room just after Thursday turned into Friday with a plump football tucked snuggly in the crook of his left arm.
He wasn’t letting it out of his sight.
“Oh yeah, that's the ball,” Brooks said. “That's going to my house. My son is probably going to be throwing it around the house, but it's all good.”
Brooks will let his 2-year-old son Carter play with the football, but he wasn’t about to let Giants tight end Will Tye get his hands on it.
With just 14 seconds left in Thursday’s 24-19 win over the Giants at the Linc, Brooks was on the field as the Eagles drew up a box-and-one defense to prevent Eli Manning and company from taking a late lead (see story).
Brooks, 25, got on the field for his first three defensive snaps of the season. And he came away with the game-sealing interception. It was the first of his three-year career.
Manning’s pass to Tye seemed to hang in the air for about a half hour as Brooks broke on it and jumped over the receiver. “I gotta have it,” he repeated to himself in his head.
“Oh my goodness,” Brooks said when asked about how long the ball was in the air. “Those are the worst ones to try to catch. It felt like it was up there forever. I don't know, everything just felt right about that play. Just how I felt, I was talking to myself in my head to go get the play. Everything fell into place.”
Brooks joined the Eagles just before the start of the season after he was released by the Ravens, who drafted him in the third round of the 2014 draft out of Florida State. He was a healthy scratch in three games early this year and then missed two with a hamstring injury.
While he’s played a role on special teams, Brooks hadn’t been on the field as a safety until the fourth quarter on Thursday night against the Giants.
“I'm really kind of emotional about it just because I've worked so hard, man,” Brooks said. “I've been through a lot just to get back on the field on defense. I played a lot my rookie year, then went down with an injury my rookie year and it kind of threw me off a little bit. I wasn't able to get back on defense. Time ended in Baltimore and I came here. Just been working ever since just to try to get a spot.”
Brooks wouldn’t have been on the field Thursday night had it not been for Jaylen Watkins’ suffering a concussion.
Even with Watkins out, it still took the Eagles’ creating a new defense – which was a box-and-one – on the sideline before Brooks got into the game.
“We trust him,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “In hindsight looking at the situation, I’m like it’s probably pretty stressful with the game on the line and we make up a defense on the sideline and say ‘Terrance, you’re in.’ But I don’t think anybody doubted it in the moment at all. We know how hard he works, we know he’s prepared, we know he has talent. He played a huge game for us on special teams. To see him go out there and make the play, I thought it was fitting. We were definitely proud of him.”
As a rookie in Baltimore, Brooks actually played 22 percent of the Ravens’ snaps before his season ended with an ACL tear. In 2015, he played just six percent of the team’s snaps. He spent training camp with the Ravens before this season, but was released at final cuts.
The Eagles claimed him and Brooks had been waiting for his shot to play some defense for his new team ever since. He finally got that shot on Thursday night and rewarded the Eagles with their third interception of the night.
“It felt great, man,” Brooks said. “I've been putting in a lot of work just these last few years and just getting the opportunity to get back out there. Guys went down and it was next man up. I had to go out there and make a play. It just fell into my hands.”
And as he walked out of the locker room a few hours later, that ball wasn’t going anywhere.