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No one knows what lies ahead for the quarterback who took us to the Super Bowl – and won. What we do know is he’s taken us on one incredible ride, and no Eagles fan will ever forget that. Nick Foles has secured a legacy here. He is lauded and loved, and that’s pretty good considering the expectations of his fans. It may be time to move on, but we’ll be forever thankful for the time he gave us (and the win).

The media had long scattered, and so had most of the Eagles players who spent the morning cleaning out their lockers at the NovaCare Complex. It was the day after losing to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round playoff game and time to call the 2018 season a wrap.

Quarterback Nick Foles had one more chore, and that was to sign the team’s wall of Pro Bowl players. The wall wraps around two hallways and includes every player in franchise history to have made the Pro Bowl. Foles made the Pro Bowl in the 2013 sea­son, the one in which he threw the historic 27 touch­­­down passes and only two interceptions.

He looked at the picture on the wall but, Foles said, it was from his 2012 rookie season. He’s wearing a midnight green Eagles jersey, and his hair is long enough to stick out the back of his helmet. The picture shows Foles looking downfield, striding long, his right arm ready to let go of a pass. What’s unusual about the picture is that he has his mouthpiece in his facemask, not protecting his teeth.

Why would he have not worn his mouthpiece?

“Honestly, I was probably nervous,” Foles says. “I walk past this photo and I think, ‘Man, that was a long time ago and I couldn’t even get my uniform right.’ It’s pretty funny, looking back at it now. A lot has happened since then, hasn’t it?”

Wait, what? Foles nervous? We tend to forget there was a time for Foles when he didn’t have a solid situation in the NFL, when he was just like every other third-round draft pick trying to make it in the league. He didn’t have the calm, cool and collected demeanor that we’ve all come to know and love. He was unsure, he battled his confidence and, ultimately, he played with three teams from 2014-2016. It wasn’t until he returned to Phila­delphia as an unrestricted free agent – to serve as the backup to Carson Wentz – that he turned his story into a football miracle.

“When I think back to those times,” Foles says, “and look at this picture, it seems like a lifetime ago. I guess in a way it was. I am definitely not the person then that I am now.”

Now, Foles is a 30-year-old man who, it seems almost certain, is about to embark on yet another NFL journey. Free agency begins next month and the conventional thinking is that Foles, who has a contract through 2019 that pays him $20 million for the single season, will either be released from his contract and permitted to find his own next stop in the league, or the Eagles will trade him and get back some NFL Draft compensation. After all, they’ll be exchanging a quarterback who set the league on fire last January and February, becoming the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

“When you’re new to the league, you never think you’re going to be the one traded, that you’re going to be the one who has had to overcome so much to have success,” Foles says.

“It’s a business and everybody learns that right away, but you just don’t think you’re the one who is going to have to move from team to team and have to handle whatever it is in front of you. You dream about playing for one team your entire career. I think that is what every player would love to have happen. It’s just not going to be that way for me. I certainly have no regrets about the way things have worked out.”

Should Foles leave for another team, he’ll do so as the franchise leader in all-time passer rating (93.2) and the hero who delivered the Lombardi Trophy to Philadelphia. The Eagles have been very clear with their plans to turn the franchise over to Carson Wentz, who was on course to re-write the team’s record books before suffering a torn ACL in his left knee, forcing Foles into the starting role for the playoff-bound team. Foles then made his magic, throwing in 2017 for 373 yards and three touchdowns while catching another touchdown pass, to defeat New England.

In the 2018 season, with the Eagles flailing at 6-7, Foles became the starter when Wentz went out with a stress fracture in his back. The Eagles won three straight games to reach the postseason, and then turned away Chicago (16-15) as Foles threw a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to wide receiver Golden Tate for the winning points.

The legend of Nick Foles, then, is well established in Philadelphia. What he did and how he did it will never be forgotten.

“I think everybody appreciates what Nick has done and what he’s gone through in his career – almost retiring, moving from team to team, never really having a specific, etched-in role – because people can relate to being handed so many challenges and overcoming them,” says Eagles center Jason Kelce. “Those are relatable things for people to appreciate. As a football player, Nick has always kept a level head. He’s worked hard for what he’s earned.”

“All I know,” Kelce continues, “is that Nick has been a great teammate and friend. We would not have won the Super Bowl without him. We would not have reached the playoffs this season had he not stepped in and played his game. He just goes out there and does his job, and guys rally around him.”

Quarterbacks don’t usually capture a region the way Foles did over the course of the last calendar year.

Avid fans understood the challenges of going from undistinguished backup quarterback to Super Bowl hero, and casual fans attached themselves to Foles’ humility, his gentle nature and his life story, as well as the way the team responded to his presence in the huddle. From the days of Norm Van Brocklin and Sonny Jurgensen in the 1950s and 1960s through Ron Jaworski in the 1970s and 1980s and then Donovan McNabb in the 2000s, quarterbacks are the lightning rods for fans. They are the ones who receive all the credit in the wins and all the blame in the losses.

Foles hasn’t been touched with even a smidgen of rancor from a fan base known for its edge.

“The fans,” Foles is saying as he finishes signing his Pro Bowl image on the wall, “they have been so wonderful. I can’t tell you how many letters and notes I’ve gotten from fans just saying, ‘Thank you.’ It means everything to me. The fans are part of the experience of playing in this league. Having that relationship has been special. They’ve been so supportive. When we’ve played at home, the crowds have been unbelievable. I think about the crowds at the Super Bowl, on the road this year in Los Angeles and at Washington – incredible support. They felt like home games. Hearing them and knowing the fans are behind me and this football team 100 percent has meant everything.”

“I’ve walked past this photo so many times, and I look at it and think about just how far I’ve come and how far this team has come. You have to appreciate those moments, every moment, really. They don’t last forever. I was just a kid when I played in the Pro Bowl. It was just one of those seasons and I was fortunate to have success. It’s just one of many great times I’ve had with the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s all meant so much to me.”

With that, Foles handed back the Sharpie and moved on. Two days later, he packed up his family and moved into the offseason and a future that is likely to include a football job in another city, in front of another fan base that is hoping he can be St. Nick for them.

Nothing lasts forever, and surely not in the National Football League. If that’s the last we’ll see of Nick Foles as a Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, then the ride has been one to remember for the rest of our lives.

 

Read more Nick Foles from when he was our cover story last year and in 2014.

February 2019
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