Will Parks grew up in North Philadelphia, but the first time he went to an Eagles game was on November 5, 2017, when the home team thrashed his Denver Broncos, 51-23. Parks returned to Lincoln Financial Field for the first time as a fan a few months later with his father, William McLeod, to watch the Eagles hoist the NFC Championship after routing Minnesota, 38-7.
McLeod, a Vikings fan, was left in despair on that glorious January evening. Parks' mother, Nyerere, meanwhile, is "the biggest Eagles fan out there" with a fan cave that Parks claims would make anyone jealous. On Saturday, Parks gave his mother something else to be happy about as he agreed to terms on a one-year deal to return home.
Most new players don't understand what it's like to play in Philadelphia. For Parks, who returned to his home in the Philadelphia area the past few offseasons, the fans are a big part of why he wanted to come back.
"I love the fans. They're passionate about their Eagles. You want a fan base that you'll thrive off of," Parks said. "I love that attitude because it brings the best out of you."
As he entered free agency for the first time after four seasons in Denver, Parks called Philadelphia a "perfect" situation. Why?
There's the quarterback in Carson Wentz. "I love Carson," Parks said. "He would have been MVP (in 2017) if he didn't get hurt, you know what I mean?"
There's the defensive coordinator in Jim Schwartz. "You have a guy who is smart, who has been one of the best defensive coordinators for a very long time," said Parks.
Parks also recognizes that it's different to play the safety position in Philadelphia. Parks fondly remembers Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins patrolling the secondary. Weapon X's knockout blow of Packers tight end Bubba Franks in 2005 is his favorite hit. Dawkins was at the forefront of being an interchangeable safety that is imperative in today's NFL. Parks can play the post, line up as the dime linebacker, and man up against receivers in the slot.
"It's definitely what teams are looking for. The game has definitely changed. You've got these tight ends that are moving like receivers. You have these backs that are moving like tight ends," Parks said. "The game is changing and you've got to change with the game."
Parks is not the only one who fits that bill. The team agreed to terms on a one-year deal with defensive back Jalen Mills, who also presents Schwartz with a versatile chess piece on the back end.
"You don't have a bunch of sitting ducks back there," Parks said.
The Eagles also agreed to bring back safety Rodney McLeod on a two-year deal and traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay. As Parks waits for the opportunity to bond with his new teammates, he doesn't have to worry about adapting to a new city. And both of his parents, even the Vikings fan, are happy that they can see him play just minutes from where he was raised.