It took all of 20 seconds to be patched through to Yazoo City’s mayor, McArthur Straughter, when a reporter called to discuss homegrown talent Fletcher Cox. It is a topic most of the 11,000 residents that make up the quaint Mississippi town would be more than happy to stop for.
“It’s not every day that you get somebody drafted from a small town like ours,” said Mayor Straughter with a distinctive twang. “Everyone knows Fletcher; he’s a conversation piece. He carries the conversation and carries the day. I hope that he doesn’t forget the upbringing he’s had, even though he’s in the big city with the bright lights.”
The bright lights, of course, belong to the City of Brotherly Love, and Cox—considered by many to be the top defensive lineman in April’s draft—now belongs to the Eagles. Born in Mississippi. High school and college ball in Mississippi. Plucked out and dropped into Philly.
“The traffic, number one,” said Cox, when asked about the adjustment. “In Yazoo City, there’s not a lot of traffic—not a lot of red lights.”
It is an overlooked dynamic of any NFL team. With armor on and visor down, they sprint out of the tunnel and through the smoke as if being shot out of a common pod. You forget there’s such a diverse cultural blend and a definite transition period.
Fortunately for Cox, he has some assistance in that regard.
Third-year linebacker Jamar Chaney played alongside Cox for a season at Mississippi State and has known him since the defensive tackle was a junior in high school. Chaney has gotten Cox out of his hotel room over the past several weeks, guided him through the traffic and shown him a couple key spots for any southern boy living up north. A main go-to is Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Cafe on 13th and South.
“I kept it a little southern,” said Cox. “I got some fried chicken and rice and macaroni.”
Chaney also dips into Warmdaddy’s on Columbus Boulevard when he needs a taste of home. Of course, he had to introduce Cox to the natives’ cuisine too, and has already taken him on trips to Jim’s Steaks and Tony Luke’s.
“It’s a big change, especially him going to college in the same state that he’s from, this is probably the first time he’s living out of his comfort zone,” said Chaney. “But he’s very excited about being here. Of all the teams, the Eagles are the team he wanted to come to.”
For that, you can thank Jim Washburn, the defensive line coach who said, “When God made [Cox], he made him to play in this system right here.”
It goes beyond the fact that Washburn can mold the 12th overall pick into the havoc-wreaking sackmaster that he wants to become. Washburn is an old, straight-shooting North Carolina cat who bonded immediately with Cox during his visit to Starkville, Mississippi.
“I’ve coached Fletcher Cox my whole life. I’ve coached him a million times,” said Washburn. “I’ve been in his house hundreds of times. I’ve coached southern black kids my whole life—that’s what my life’s work has been.
“So we hit it off. I knew exactly what he was, where he’s from. I really like him. He’s a really soft-spoken, shy country guy. I took him out to eat, and we talked about deer hunting and guns for about the first two hours, and spent about 15 minutes on football.”
Perhaps a commentary on how Washburn likes his players wired, Jason Babin and Trent Cole are also big hunters, so Cox will have no problem finding a spot in the D-line clique.
The people of Yazoo will be happy to know that Cox seems to be fitting in quite well so far in the big city with the bright lights.
“I feel like I belong here,” said Cox.