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Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.

For the first time in his adult life, at the ripe age of 24, Carson Wentz had some down time. The 2016 Philadelphia Eagles season ended on January 1 and the players cleaned out their lockers, said their good- Byes and headed their separate ways a day later.

For Wentz, who had spent the previous 18 months playing his senior season at North Dakota State, winning a National Championship, then launching into months of whirlwind preparation for the NFL Draft and becoming the No. 2 overall pick and then adjusting on the fly as he started all 16 games of the season, the time off was a welcomed – and foreign – idea.

“It was a great chance to just sit back and collect my thoughts, take a deep breath and go do some things that I thought were important,” Wentz says. “I didn’t touch a football for a long time. I had other things to do.”

As Wentz and the Eagles begin the 2017 campaign – with high hopes spread throughout the region – after his record-setting rookie season, he carries with him some of those “things to do” he actually got done. Corrective surgery eliminated the need for contact lenses and eyeglasses. A visit to Southern California to work with noted quarterback whisperer Adam Dedeaux helped Wentz with the mechanical side of playing the quarterback position, specifically footwork and arm motion. Wentz spent a few days in Houston making the media rounds at the Super Bowl, chatting it up with the national sports talk shows and mingling with fans.

Those were a tough few days, Wentz admits. It sounds great, going on television shows and talking about the next steps for the Eagles, but Wentz made himself a promise during that week that he intends to keep.

“It was annoying. I’m not gonna lie. It was cool to see it, but I don’t want to be there again until we’re playing in the game,” Wentz says. “That was kind of my mentality. I didn’t even stay for the game. I told myself I don’t want to go to the Super Bowl until we’re playing in it.”

“It was chaos, and the fans were into it. I respect and appreciate that. But it was uncomfortable for me. I didn’t want to be the center of attention. We weren’t even in the Super Bowl. For me, the goal is to win the Super Bowl, and I want to do that every year.”

Those were the football-related activities for Wentz during his offseason. Beyond that, Wentz got away from the game – way, way, way away from football. He put his time into other things he loves to do – explore his faith and ensconce himself in the world of peace, quiet and hunting.

Wentz and former Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews traveled with Kyle Horner, the lead pastor at Connect Church in Cherry Hill, where the players worship. Horner works with Mission of Hope, a Christian organization that seeks transformative change for the people of Haiti. The group spent a long weekend in Port-Au-Prince praying with the people, spreading the word of the Bible, and painting and repairing two homes.

The weekend still resonates with Wentz.

“It was just a perspective change, more than anything. Going over there was important for me, and I still carry some experiences from that trip,” Wentz says.

“No. 1, having the chance to share the gospel through a translator, traveling across the ocean, was convicting. We went through a lot to have that opportunity, and on a personal level that was convicting. And then seeing the joy on the kids’ faces while we were there was so moving. These kids have barely anything. They’re struggling just to get clean water and one meal a day. That was very eye-opening. You can take pictures of it and you can see videos of it, but until you are there and it smacks you in the face, and you see the garbage on the streets, where they are living, how they are living, you can’t understand the level of need in that society. So to have those kids showing so much joy and appreciation for what we were doing was extremely gratifying.”

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘stuff’ of the world. It’s easy to take things for granted. When I have those feelings, I think about Haiti and it brings me right back into the right perspective. Through my foundation, I continue to try to make a difference over there. You can’t undo what’s happening there, but you can make a difference and that is something that’s important to me.”

“That was my first mission trip, and my first trip to a third-world environment. I wish everybody could make that trip. It was big for me spiritually, and I think that for anybody who has passion and compassion it’s a trip that can change your life.”

There was also some “me” time for Wentz, who accompanied his brother, Zach, on a hunting trip to New Zealand. The brothers hunted tahr, red stag and chamois there, and brought home about 150 pounds of meat. Wentz is an avid hunter, having started at the age of 14 and now turning it into a get-away-from-football passion.

For a young man who spends so much of his professional life in the spotlight, Wentz cherishes the time alone in the wilderness.

“It was one of those things that, when I was growing up as a kid, I just liked to be on the go,” Wentz says. “I played sports, one sport after the next. Hunting was just kind of something I did with my dad and my brother two weekends a year. We had fun, but it was never something I really had a passion for until I went to college and my life became a lot busier because of football.”

“I got into bird hunting with some buddies, and then I got a dog and then all of a sudden I was obsessed with it. It was the perfect release from football, from the business of life. Having a dog with me, having a buddy with me, there’s nothing like it. You’re out there in the field with a total stranger and by the time you’re finished, you’re buddies forever.”

Now it’s football season, and the opportunities for hunting are few. Wentz and the Eagles have large aspirations for 2017, and after a season in which Wentz started 16 games and threw 607 passes as the Eagles went 7-9, he welcomes new receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and 250-pound running back LeGarrette Blount to the offense. The offense is set to fly.

“I think everyone is excited. We have a lot of pieces here. Great guys and a great coaching staff,” Wentz says. “We obviously have to be a lot better than last year. The goal is to go out and play our best football every week, and to do that it’s going to take all of us working together. We have the pieces. We have chemistry. I can’t wait to get it started.

October 2017
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