Eagles

How Nick Foles chose football (with assist to LeBron)

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How Nick Foles chose football (with assist to LeBron)

This is the third installment of a five-part series that will run this week taking an in-depth look at the life of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. Part I, on Foles' heroes -- his mom and dad -- ran Sunday and Part II on the women in his life, his mom and wife.

Before he was a record-setting quarterback, a Pro Bowl MVP, a starter for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Nick Foles was just a normal kid that loved playing baseball, basketball and football.

And just about any other sport you can think of.

“I was always outside doing something,” Foles said. “When I talk to kids these days there's so many X-Boxes, so many gadgets, there's always something else. I mean we did that, but honestly, we were always outside doing something. Causing havoc, playing backyard football, riding bikes.

“When I go back to my hometown in Austin, you don't see all of that anymore because the big thing is virtual video games. They're fun, I've played them at times, but I always would have rather been out there doing something.”

Foles, like his dad, Larry, was a terrific baseball player as a kid, and he was even better at basketball. He was one of those kids who could do anything. You name the sport. He could have played college hoops at the Division 1 level, and he probably would have been pretty good at it.

Fortunately for the Eagles, Foles pursued football. He went 8-2 last year after replacing an injured Michael Vick, leading the Eagles to a 7-1 record the second half of the season and a playoff berth before going to the Pro Bowl and earning MVP honors.

But long before he settled on football, young Foles was into baseball more than anything.

“Yeah, I was a big baseball player,” he said. “In middle school I gave it up. I decided to play year-round and it was just too much for me. At that time I was doing baseball, basketball, football, karate. And my heart was in football and basketball, which it still is.”

Foles said he loved playing hoops and even made varsity in high school as a freshman.

“Basketball I love just as much as football,” he said. “It’s just that I decided to go this route and I’ve put more time into football since high school, so football’s gone better. I can still play basketball. I just never really got better. I just go out there and wing it.”

A coaching switch on the basketball staff before his junior year at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, ultimately pointed him to football.

“I had great head coaches all in high school, but my high school head coach for basketball ended up leaving after my sophomore year,” he said. “So it was just one of those things where the JV coach was my coach and I really liked him. But the coach that I had really bonded with as a freshman had left, so I was like, ‘All right.’

“It sort of messed with me a little bit. And then I don’t know, I think my junior year I had a good year of varsity football, and I was like, ‘All right, I think I can do this thing.’ And senior year I had a really good year, went to the state championship.

“I think I committed to Arizona State after my junior year, so at that point I came to the realization that I looked at LeBron James and was like, ‘I don’t think I can do that. But I think I can throw a football.’

“So I had to keep it real with myself. I knew I could play college basketball and hopefully be a good player. But if I wanted to go on to the next level, it would have had to have been a miracle.”

Point guard ... quarterback ... Long before the Eagles drafted Foles, he knew he wanted to be the guy running the offense.

No matter what sport.

“I really wanted to have the ball in my hands,” he said. “My mom gave the picture to some news site where they put it up, and the picture’s everywhere, but the second day [after] I was born, my dad put a football in my hand.

“So I guess it was just sort of writing on the wall then through all the ups and downs. I just always liked playing quarterback.

“When I played basketball, the last-second shot, my team always wanted to get me the ball. The coach knew I wanted it, but the team, we would draw up a play so I would shoot it. And I just liked having my hands on the ball when it was crunch time and I had to make a decision.

“Ever since I started playing football I wanted to be a quarterback. I was a quarterback. My first year of flag football I actually sat the bench and didn’t play so that really was tough. But then after that I really never let it go.”

Part I: Foles' success comes from heroes: Mom and Dad

Part II: Women in Nick Foles' life keep him humble

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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AP Images/USA Today Images

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

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USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."