October 2, 2023   5 MIN READ

Twin Billing

DB McCollum Makes NFL Debut In Victory


PHILADELPHIA – Most weeks, the pregame phone conversations between twin brothers Tristin and Zyon McCollum are one-sided.

They typically consist of Tristin, a member of the Eagles practice squad, offering encouragement to Zyon, a 2022 fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ahead of his next game.

While Zyon has appeared in 17 career games (seven starts) for Tampa Bay, Tristin – a former rookie free agent and notable NFL Scouting Combine snub – has fluidly navigated his brief career on NFL practice squads, the NFL’s literal limbo.

But when a rash of injuries last week decimated an already barren Eagles safety contingent, Tristin learned Saturday when he was pulled aside while walking up to the mock game that he would be elevated and make his NFL debut Sunday against the Washington Commanders.

He was elated.

For at least one week, the customary pregame exchanges between the McCollum twins would sound different.

“We always reach out to each other leading up to the game,” Tristin said. “And then we always call each other before the game. But usually, I’m the one that’s giving him the pep talk because he has to go out there and battle, but now it’s a little bit of back-and-forth. So, it was a good moment.

“He was really excited for me. And we always have that relationship.”

Tristin McCollum

McCollum’s debut occurred nearly four weeks after closing the book on a productive preseason in which the 6-foot-3, 195-pound defensive back logged 81 defensive snaps and 57 on special teams.

He demonstrated the requisite length, range, and athleticism that teams covet, doing so in a limited capacity. He also showcased invaluable special teams prowess, which presumably factored into the Eagles’ decision-making.

“In the preseason, I was just proving to myself that I could be in this league,” McCollum explained after the game, a 34-31 overtime Eagles win. “You know, I can run with anyone and run away from almost anyone. So, really, just trusting my speed and trusting my size is really what led me to this point.”

Measurables aside, McCollum has advanced to this point due to an incessant fixation of honing his craft.

On Thursday, for example, he visited punt returner Britain Covey’s locker stall, seemingly to fine-tune his shadow technique as a jammer.

The two briefly worked on it in the narrow walkway in front of Covey’s locker.

“Covey, he’s such a savvy guy that he likes to meet with all the cover guys on punt return to see where their heads are at so we can all get on the same page,” McCollum said. “So, that’s something that Covey really orchestrates. Good move by him because it gives everyone a leg up.”

More than 90 minutes before kickoff, McCollum worked alone on the far side of the field ahead of his NFL debut.

His pregame warmup – the same routine he abided by during summer workouts with his brother, back home in Galveston, Texas – remained the same.

Even his nutritional intake, down to the breakfast and fluids, was consistent. Simplified.

Despite his cameo Sunday against Washington – he played 20 special teams snaps, none on defense – McCollum showed well in his opportunities as a gunner and jammer, his contributions largely aiding Covey’s three return, 38-yard afternoon.

All told, McCollum finished second behind Kelee Ringo, Christian Elliss and Patrick Johnson, who all garnered 25 special teams snaps – accounting for 65 percent of the total.

The latest member of the team’s defensive back youth movement to see regular-season action, McCollum joined Reed Blankenship, Josh Jobe, Sydney Brown, Kelee Ringo, Eli Ricks and Mario Goodrich as first- or second-year Eagles defensive backs to be active on game day.

“We’re a very tight-knit group,” McCollum said. “We all lean on each other, and we all watch each other just so we can give each other tips and give each other reminders.

“I love those guys, they’ve helped me get to this point, so I’ve got nothin’ but love.”

The “point”to which McCollum refers is a culmination of his outpouring of hard work and steadfast determination manifesting itself in the form of opportunity.

It’s an achievement relatable to anyone who has ever had to power through a roadblock or detour obstructing their prosperity.

As McCollum reflected on the wave of emotions cascading through his mind Saturday night in the aftermath of the Eagles’ win, one would be hard-pressed to ignore his radiating positive energy and genuine appreciation for a moment that felt like a long time coming.

“Man, it was a lot of emotions,” McCollum said, sporting a wide grin. “Some anxious, some nervous, some excited. It was a lot, but like (defensive backs) coach D.K. (McDonald) always tells us, we do it every day in practice, so don’t make the game too big. Just go out and do what we do.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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