As players spilled onto the field for postgame handshakes, after Dwayne Haskins posed for a selfie with fans and Case Keenum took the final kneel-down snap in his place, Bo Scarbrough had one thing on his mind: meeting his idol, Adrian Peterson.
Scarbrough weaved his way through traffic and found Peterson near where Keenum took his knee. The two spent a minute expressing admiration for each other’s game, and when they were done, Peterson retreated to his locker room, peeled the jersey off his back and sent it to the young Detroit Lions running back in the visiting locker room at Washington’s FedExField.
“I walked straight over there to him like, boom,” Scarbrough said about the Nov. 24 game. “Told him he’s my favorite player. We had a conversation and he told me, ‘Yeah, (you can have it).’ It was like Fourth of July and Christmas.”
Scarbrough kept Peterson’s game-worn No. 26 jersey in his locker the next few days, relishing the inscription on the number “2” as validation of the hard work he’d put in.
“Bo, young fella, keep running that rock hard,” the inscription read. “I love to see that physical play! God bless you! Put God #1. Everything else will fall into place. A.D.”
A seventh-round pick by the Cowboys in 2018, Scarbrough never sniffed the field in Dallas and made pit stops with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks before finally catching his break with the Lions.
He made his first NFL start in mid-November against the Cowboys, and playing on the same field as Peterson a week later, he rushed for a career-high 98 yards in the Lions’ 19-16 loss to Washington.
Scarbrough, who has 80 carries for 335 yards and one touchdown in five games this season, said he has long tried to emulate Peterson’s running style, which he describes as “big (and) angry.”
“He just don’t give a (expletive) about nobody,” Scarbrough said. “I feel like when he gets the ball, it’s just like a light in the sky. You never know what he going to do with it. It’s a miracle when you watch him.”
He is one of dozens of Lions players who have traded jerseys with opponents after games this season. Some fans, coaches and players don’t like the look of cavorting with the enemy after a loss. But those who take part in the ritual say it’s often deeply personal.
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For Scarbrough, who plans to display Peterson’s jersey in a frame that reads, “My Favorite Running Back of All-Time,” simply being on the same field as Peterson was emotional, given his path to the NFL.
“It’s just like a little kid just smashing his hand in a pile of cake,” Scarbrough said. “That’s how exciting it is to get to meet one of your favorite players that’s been your favorite player since you can remember, and you finally get to actually meet him and play against him.”
With one more chance to exchange jerseys this season Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, three other Lions explain why jersey swaps are meaningful to them.
Ford grew up in Alton, Illinois, across the state line from St. Louis, where Ezekiel Elliott was a schoolboy star. Ford and Elliott never played against each other in high school, but they ranked 1-2 in the St. Louis area in rushing one season, and when they met for the first time on the field this season, Ford had to ask Elliott for his jersey.
“I’ve known him since I was like 5,” Ford said. “He’s from exactly where I’m from, same area. We grew up in the same area. Went to the same Boys and Girls Club. Same guy.”
Ford said he sought advice from Elliott coming out of the draft and occasionally talks football with the Dallas Cowboys running back via social media or text.
Getting Elliott’s jersey, he said, was a way to pay homage to his hometown.
“It’ll be super cool to be like, ‘Me and that guy from the same area both made it,’ ” he said. “Just to be able to exchange jerseys, it’s something, not just for me but for the city and just everybody that’s keeping eyes on us. It’s super cool.”
Ford, in his second NFL season, said he trades jerseys only with “guys that I’m really cool with and that I feel I’m real good friends with.”
“Me and Zeke been knowing each other since we were real young kids, worked out together before we went to college,” he said. “He’s just my guy. Just a guy that I hang out with, known since we were young. It’s just kind of like old friends that made it to the league, exchanged jerseys.”
Slay has an extensive jersey collection from his seven seasons in the league. At one point, he was exchanging jerseys with opponents on an almost weekly basis, often with close friends.
This year, Slay said he made one swap that was especially meaningful — with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“He’s a special guy, man,” Slay said. “Hall of Famer. Great receiver. Been going against him for quite a bit, so it’s an honor that he gave me his jersey.”
Slay and Fitzgerald have played against each other six times. The Lions are 2-3-1 in those games, and while Slay hasn’t always covered Fitzgerald, he has immense respect for Fitzgerald’s game and style of play.
At 36 years old, Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his career.
Slay said he wanted Fitzgerald’s jersey both as a way to commemorate their battles against each other and also to have a piece of history from one of the game’s all-time greats.
“He’s a competitor,” Slay said. “He competes at a high level. Very humble guy, man. Probably one of the most humble receivers. Him and Calvin (Johnson), are the most humble two guys I ever met as a receiver corps that don’t say nothing to nobody, just uplifting guys. So very humble dude.”
Like Ford, Golladay said he rarely trades jerseys, and when he does it’s usually with close friends.
In his locker, he has the jerseys of former Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones and Miami Dolphins tight end Nick O’Leary, and after last week’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he swapped jerseys with defensive end Pat O’Connor.
Teammates at St. Rita High in Chicago, Golladay and O’Connor have followed similar paths to the NFL. They both went to Mid-American Conference schools — O’Connor at Eastern Michigan and Golladay at Northern Illinois (after a pit stop at FCS North Dakota) — and both were 2017 draft choices of the Lions.
“We didn’t know each coming into freshman year of high school, but played against each other in college, got drafted by the same team,” Golladay said. “That’s always been my boy, even in high school.”
Along with O’Connor’s jersey and those of Jones and O’Leary, Golladay said his collection includes the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Ward and Tommylee Lewis.
Golladay played with Ward and Lewis at Northern Illinois, and he spends his offseasons training in Florida with Brissett, Lewis and O’Leary (the three of whom were high school teammates at Palm Beach Dwyer High).
“Not saying I wouldn’t trade jerseys with other people,” Golladay said. “But I just feel like it just means a little bit more (when it’s) somebody who I know.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.
Published at Thu, 26 Dec 2019 11:00:37 +0000