Philadelphia Eagles fans have never seen a quarterback quite like Nick Foles. He doesn’t speak much, and when he does, it’s only to talk football. He isn’t flashy. Doesn’t get into trouble. Hasn’t created any media storm.

It seems he’s going for focused, dedicated professional athlete. Fans are counting on that combination to bring home another championship…and maybe a bit more.

A football season that began with him as a second-string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles ended with Foles winning co-MVP honors in the 2014 Pro Bowl in Honolulu and with it a new truck. As Foles came off the field and walked into the locker room, he reflected on the moment.

“It’s surreal, definitely,” he said. “To be in this position, it’s just a blessing. I’m taking it all in and enjoying it. I know that all the hard work I’m putting in is working out. I’m going to enjoy this for a few days and get ready for the season.”

184901111DH1084_reskin_eagleThe season is here. And Foles is in the middle of the action for the Eagles, the defending NFC East champions relying on the progress made by its third-year quarterback.

With that recognition comes attention, and with attention comes scrutiny and opinions, and the intense existence of life in a media fishbowl. Foles insists that nothing – not the success he’s had on the field or the conversation he’s generating off the field – affects him in the least.

“It really doesn’t,” he says. “My sole focus is on this football team and my teammates and coaches. Everyone has his opinion. That’s fine. That’s part of what makes football great. I’m responsible to my teammates, to be as prepared as I can be. So I’m concentrating on what my job is, not what people are saying about me.

“I love playing this game, so I’m going to make the most of my time in the NFL. I’m not going to let anything take away from my experience. I’m fortunate to be in this position, so if I keep working hard to improve every day, I’m going to be where I want to be.”

Foles limits his media interviews to football business. He doesn’t talk about his personal life. He is all business in every avenue of life.

Ron Jaworski knows the quarterback position in the NFL. A 16-year veteran who played 10 of those years with the Eagles, the South Jersey resident and ESPN analyst understands the degree of excellence needed to play quarterback at the very highest level.

On this day he is talking about Foles, who has made less than two dozen starts in his NFL career and who, if you believe the radio talk shows or read the newspapers, is either the Next Great Thing or a massive work in progress.

“Nick is just starting his career, and I believe it will be a long, successful one if he continues to block out all of the stuff that people say, the constant analysis, and just focus in on improving his game every day,” says Jaworski, who endured his share of ups and downs with the Eagles, leading the team to Super Bowl XV in the 1980 season. “All that other noise is nothing more than a distraction, and this is just the beginning for him. This is a young man we’re talking about. He’s just coming into his own now.

“The pressure you put upon yourself at the position, as a leader of the team, it’s more than enough to comprehend. The game moves at a lightning-fast speed and to excel you have to make sure you are focused 100 percent every day on your responsibilities. Don’t read newspapers or the Internet. Don’t listen to sports talk radio. Turn the television to another channel when the topic is the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I see that in Nick. He is committed to his teammates and coaches first. He is not in this game for the glory. He is in it to win a Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles. And he has handled his first three seasons in a very tough city to play absolutely beautifully.”

Since the days of Jaworski, most Eagles quarterbacks have commanded attention and attracted plenty of headlines. Randall Cunningham was dubbed “The Ultimate Weapon” for the way he played the game at a supremely athletic level. Donovan McNabb came along in 1999 and while he led the Eagles to a Super Bowl in the 2004 season and took the team to five NFC Championship Game appearances, he also drew a remarkable amount of attention for what he said or didn’t say or for what was said about him. On the heels of McNabb was Michael Vick, fresh out of a federal penitentiary. Vick was a breathtaking performer on the field and a daily controversy away from the game.

187471778DH1153_viking_eagleFoles is the boy next door. Raised by Larry and Melissa Foles, Nick is one of three children who grew up in the honest, hard-working ways of Austin, Texas. He is a member of the 3F Club – Faith, Family and Football – with nary a stitch of conflict in his life. Foles married his college sweetheart, Tori Moore, prior to the 2014 season and moved from South Jersey into Center City, Philadelphia, with their three dogs and a cat. He reads the Bible before each game. Crime drama is his television vice.

That’s about all you get when researching Foles’ private life. He is intensely quiet and unassuming, just the way his teammates like it.

“He is the same way every day. Nick is the same guy who came here as a rookie when we were 4-12 and we had a bunch of changes on offense and injuries and it was terrible,” says tight end Brent Celek. “Then he doesn’t win the starting job at the start of last year [when Vick earned the starting nod as quarterback], and he’s the same. Then he comes in and plays, and we win the division and he goes to the Pro Bowl, has some success. No difference.

“I don’t think he will ever change. That’s just who he is. Nick works hard, and he cares about the team. It’s always team first with Nick. That’s the kind of quarterback you want on your side.”

The feeling is mutual. Foles has taken off in the offense designed by head coach Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, one that is innovative in the way it is operated with no huddles, an extremely high tempo and the relative simplicity of taking advantage of a defense’s weakness.

“It works because everyone is on the same page, and I have a great group of people around me,” says Foles. “It’s much more than me. We have a great coaching staff. They feed us the information in a manner that’s easy to digest and translate. So then it’s a matter of us going out and executing. I have to trust what I’m seeing and then do my part. That’s how I see my role. I’m just doing my part.”

Redskins_v_Eagles_November_17_2013_BLG_1536Foles was a star quarterback at Westlake High School in Austin, throwing 33 touchdown passes and four interceptions in his senior season. He was also a big-time basketball player and could have played either Division I football or basketball in college. He chose football, knowing that a 6-foot-6 quarterback has some distinct advantages, which isn’t exactly the case on the basketball court.

Foles attended Michigan State and left after one season, settling in at the University of Arizona for three years and setting every major passing record in school history. The Eagles selected Foles in the third round of the 2012 draft even as the draft “experts” gave Foles decidedly mixed reviews. They liked his size and his body type, but Foles did not run well and his post-college workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and in all-star games were not strong.

Three years later, Foles is a Pro Bowl quarterback. Vick was the starting quarterback to begin the 2013 season but he exited an October 6 game at the New York Giants with a hamstring injury. Foles entered, led the Eagles to a 36-21 victory and claimed the first-team job. He never looked back, even if some didn’t quite allow for a moment to celebrate. When Foles tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a 49-20 victory against Oakland last November, the reaction from many circles was tepid, at best.

Foles finished the season with 27 touch-down passes and only two interceptions, the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history, and his 119.2 QB rating topped the league and was third-best in league history.

But after throwing an interception and fumbling away the football in the first half of the 2014 opening game against Jacksonville, Foles was booed leaving the field and fans wondered aloud how much longer head coach Chip Kelly could stick with his third-year quarterback.

“It’s a what-have-you-done-lately world,” says Jaworski, “and Nick knows that.”

Foles, of course, bounced back from his tough first half against Jacksonville to lead the Eagles to 34 consecutive points as the team erased a 17-0 deficit to win. A week of analysis about “What happened to Nick?” followed.

“I simply didn’t execute. I wasn’t doing a good job of stepping up in the pocket. The O line was giving me a good pocket to step up into” says Foles. “It’s one of those things where you keep playing. You keep looking at the pictures. You keep talking to one another. You keep communicating, and you keep working and trying to figure it out.”

Calm. Even-keeled. Unflappable. That’s the way his teammates describe him. He plays with the eyes of the region on him, and Foles doesn’t seem to notice.

“Dude is the same every day,” says backup quarterback Mark Sanchez, a one-time top 10 draft pick who started for four seasons with the New York Jets before joining the Eagles in March. “He doesn’t pay attention to what’s being said about him, good or bad. And that’s a hard thing to do, believe me. He’s nails. That’s what you get from him. Nails.”

November 2014
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