Former Brentwood Academy and University of Tennessee star Derek Barnett made an impact in Super Bowl LII, and afterward he received congratulations from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – As a youngster growing up in Nashville, Derek Barnett used to watch Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. He would dream of facing him one day in the NFL.
Here on Sunday night in Super Bowl LII, the Eagles rookie defensive end harassed the legendary Brady with the game on the line. He even recovered a Brady fumble in crunch time.
And then, as he made his way down the hallway after his team’s 41-33 win over the Patriots, something happened that left him shaking his head.
Brady stopped in his tracks to congratulate the former Brentwood Academy and University of Tennessee star. The two chatted for a few moments before Brady shook Barnett’s hand, and gave him a hug. Then the two men went their separate ways.
“It’s crazy,” Barnett said after the game. “I told him how I looked up to him when I was younger. I told him to be able to compete against him, it was an honor.
“And he was super cool. He told me we had a hell of a season, and we deserved it. And he told me to keep working hard. He’s a great player, and a great competitor. I feel like I was lucky to be able to go against one of the greatest football players to ever play the game.”
Brady set a Super Bowl record by throwing for 505 yards in Sunday’s game.
But Barnett and the Eagles walked away with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a huge day from MVP quarterback Nick Foles.
Barnett and the Eagles defense also got stops when it mattered most.
Barnett recovered a Brady fumble after teammate Brandon Graham sacked him late. In the final minutes, Barnett later pressured Brady into an incompletion.
It was a special night for Barnett, the 14th overall pick by Philadelphia out of the University of Tennessee.
Barnett’s mom, Christine, was at the game, along with his aunts and uncles. He also had some friends with him on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, celebrating under the confetti.
“My mom was emotional,” Barnett said. “I had never won a championship before, and it’s been rough. You work so hard, and she sees the disappointment in my face when things don’t work out. To win a Super Bowl, this is a great feeling, because you work so hard.
“I feel blessed. It’s a great feeling. It’s a dream come true.”
Sunday’s Super Bowl win capped off a solid season for Barnett, who was named to the PFWA’s All-Rookie team after producing the most sacks (5.0) by an Eagles rookie since Fletcher Cox in 2012.
Barnett also made a big play in the NFC Championship Game, when he strip-sacked Vikings quarterback Case Keenum.
“I think Derek is one of the best rookies I’ve been around,” Eagles teammate Fletcher Cox said of Barnett this week. “His work ethic, his attention to detail, and the way he shows up to work every day. There’s not a lot of bad things you can say about Derek. He listens, he takes coaching, and you can see his growth from Day One, from when he came here until now.”
Barnett grew up in Nashville, and started playing football in fifth grade for the Brentwood Blaze. He said he immediately fell in love with the game.
At Brentwood Academy, he blossomed into a top college prospect, learning from defensive line coach Jack Pittman. Barnett said the lessons he learned at BA helped set him up for future success.
Barnett thrived at the University of Tennessee, where he broke Reggie White’s sack record by recording 33 sacks. He compiled 52 tackles for a loss at Tennessee, second all-time in school history behind Leonard Little.
Barnett had a pair of two-sack games against the Redskins and Cowboys this season, and tallied 25 tackles while playing in 41 percent of the team’s defensive plays during the regular season. Barnett blocked a field goal in 2017, and also recovered a fumble.
“Derek, he is such a great kid,” said Eagles guard Chance Warmack. “He is so talented, and he works so hard to get better. He is going to make such an impact – he already is. The sky is the limit for him, and I am so proud of him.”
After celebrating on the field, Barnett found himself in the middle of a celebration in the winning locker room.
He shook his head when asked about the events of the day. He could still hardly believe it. Nearby, the Vince Lombardi Trophy was being passed around the locker room. It was headed his way.
“What a great feeling,” Barnett said. “It’s unbelievable, really. I feel so blessed.”