Super Bowl LII

Women in Nick Foles' life 'kick his butt' athletically

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Women in Nick Foles' life 'kick his butt' athletically

This story initially ran in a similar form in July 2014. Some updates have been made.

It was just a day or two after the Eagles lost to the Saints in Nick Foles' first career playoff game after the 2013 season.
After going non-stop since late July, Foles was finally back home in Austin, ready for some rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. His body ached, his mind was exhausted, and he just wanted to shut down.
Then, before the sun even rose, his mom said it was time to go to the gym.
"First day back in Austin, right after the season, I was probably up at 6 a.m. working out with her," Foles said with a laugh. "And that's hard, to get up at 6 a.m. after a season, but it was just one of those times where I knew that I needed to.
"I don't get home that much. [Wife] Tori's from California, so we try to spend time there with her family, and when I'm home I really try to take advantage of it."
Turns out Nick isn't the only athlete in the family.
Melissa Foles is quite the workout warrior.
And her 29-year-old son knows that if he can get through his mom's workouts, he can get through anything.
"Whether it's workout classes, cardio, kickboxing, half weights, half whatever, just crazy stuff," Foles said. "It's funny, but there's a lot of women in the class, but it's honestly, very, very hard, and I've seen guys go in there, full-grown men that work out all the time, go into that class and leave throwing up. And they never come back.
"So it sort of made sense to me. 'All right, now I know why I don't go.' Because all these women are absolutely crazy when they work out. Screaming, music … but it's fun for me. It's very humbling."

Foles thought he was a hotshot college athlete who could handle anything in the gym or on the track.

Until the first time his mom took him to the gym. Turns out he wasn't as tough as he thought.
"The first class I ever did with her, 'OK, I'm a college football player, our workouts are ridiculous,'" he said. "Halfway through I was gassed. Because it's different. It's not like sprinting right ahead, you're always moving, jumping up on things — it's doing everything. So it was very humbling, but at the same time, I realized I need to mix this into my training because it really helps. I really enjoyed it because it kicked my butt.
"I didn't throw up. I made it through the class. … I wasn't one of the ones that left the class. I was like, 'I'm going to make it through this class if I die out there.'"
Foles posted the third-highest passer rating in the NFL in 2013, set an NFL record for best touchdown-to-interception ratio (27 to 2) and tied a record for touchdown passes in a game (seven). He went 8-2 after replacing an injured Michael Vick, led the Eagles to the playoffs and was named Pro Bowl MVP. Four seasons later, he would lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win.
But he's no match for his mom, who was a gymnast and cheerleader in high school and is still in better shape than her son. At least, according to Nick.
"My mom, she can still kick my butt in anything," Foles said. "When you have your mom kick your butt, you can't help but stay humble."
Mom isn't the only female athlete in the family who can kick Nick's butt.
Tori played college volleyball and can give Nick a run for his money in the gym as well.
The two met the first few days of Foles' freshman year at Arizona but didn't date until both had graduated.
"My wife, she's very, very athletic," Foles said. "She played volleyball in college and then after it, she really got into running. I'd have talks with her, 'I can't run eight miles with you. I can go two, but you have to do sprints with me or striders because I can't do that.'
"But it's been fun. She's my best friend and we really get along great. She's seriously my best friend. Sometimes when I come home, she wants to go swimming right away, so it's good to have those women in your life that are very special, and I respect them both, and they both can kick my butt."

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

Eagles' championship offers a strong life lesson

I still remember pretty vividly the first day most people thought the Eagles were dead. It was a Tuesday morning, the day after the Eagles' 34-24 win over Washington at home on Monday Night Football. 

Sure, the Eagles had moved to 6-1 on the season but after already losing Chris Maragos and Darren Sproles, they suffered two even bigger blows. Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks and left tackle Jason Peters, who were both carted off against Washington, were done for the season. 

"We still have a lot of football left," Doug Pederson said on Oct. 24. "We still have a game this Sunday and the season's not over." 

Of course, Pederson ended up being right. The Eagles weren't dead. They continued to win, continued to get stronger. But he had to rally his team again a couple months later when it lost Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. 

Again, a lot of people thought the Eagles were dead. They weren't.

No matter how it happened, the Eagles' first Super Bowl championship was going to be something memorable. But looking back at it, the way they won it made it even more special. The fact that they overcame multiple losses that would have killed most teams makes it incredible. 

Owner Jeff Lurie realized it too. 

And in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Lurie actually agreed that it would be special to win a championship with this specific team. 

"It would," he said at Super Bowl media night, six days before Super Bowl LII. "It would mean everything to win no matter what. But to win this way, I just think it would be a great message to the world that it's not always on paper. You can overcome so much and succeed in life. 

"This is the most resilient group of human beings I've ever watched or been a part of. I feel like that's a quality that really is incredible to have." 

As hokey as it sounds, Lurie's insight is worth remembering. What the Eagles overcame leaves a pretty incredible message of resilience. 

Of course, this all gets back to the underdog mentality and the masks and Jason Kelce's impassioned speech on the steps of the art museum. The Eagles used the idea that others were counting them out as fuel. They relished in the idea of doing something most deemed impossible. Maybe that made it all possible. 

But thinking about the talent they had on the sideline during Super Bowl LII — Sproles, Maragos, Peters, Hicks and Wentz — it's hard to not come away impressed that a team missing that many key players was able to take down one of the most impressive dynasties in NFL history. 

The fact that the Eagles were able to do it without those players probably has them thinking about getting those guys back for another run next year. That seems pretty possible; they'll get most of them back. 

But this specific team grew incredibly close and it's not hard to figure out why. Aside from natural chemistry, there's something about going through adversity that helps people grow closer. This team will never be the same, as many players began to note toward the end of the season. Some players will leave, while new guys will infiltrate the locker room. 

At least once they get those Super Bowl rings, they'll have them forever. And every time they look down and see it shining back at them, it'll serve as a reminder. The same reminder Eagles fans will get every time they think about their Super Bowl-winning team: It's possible to overcome so much. And if you do, the reward will be even sweeter.

How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

How Brandon Graham went from bust to Super Bowl hero

There was a time not all that long ago when Brandon Graham's mother, Tasha, wouldn't wear her son's jersey to Lincoln Financial Field. 

She wanted to support her son, but it just probably wasn't a good idea. 

“They were calling him a bust and they were saying they should have gotten JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) or Earl Thomas,” Tasha Graham said in a November 2015 interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It was a lot he had to stomach and stay strong on. That’s just the ups and downs of the NFL. When you’re good, you can’t get them off your coattails and when you’re bad, oh, they let you know.” 

Eagles fans definitely let him know. 

For years, Graham, who was selected 13th in the 2010 draft out of Michigan, was considered a major bust. To make matters much worse, the two guys taken after him (Thomas and Pierre-Paul) became All-Pros. 

All the hate bothered Graham in the beginning, but he eventually learned to block it out —  and block the haters quite literally on social media. All the while, he never gave up on himself, he kept working harder than just about anyone else in the building. And eventually he turned himself into a role player, then a starter and then a star. 

On Thursday, Graham rode down Broad Street as a fan favorite and a Super Bowl hero. 

"Ah man, it means so much because of the journey," Graham said on SportsCenter last week. "Like you said, what I've been through here in Philadelphia. Got hurt in the beginning. Went from a bust to a Super Bowl champion."

It was so fitting that it was Graham who made the biggest play of Super Bowl LII. After not getting much pressure on Tom Brady all game, Graham came through the middle with just over two minutes remaining to knock the ball away for a strip sack. It was the only time Brady was sacked all game. 

Just a few days earlier, defensive line coach Chris Wilson said the key in the game for his defensive linemen would be patience. Even if they weren't getting to Brady —  which was very possible —  they couldn't give up. They had to remain patient. 

Who knows more about patience than Graham? 

Earlier in his career, he needed major microfracture surgery that stunted his development. From there, he went through the Jim Washburn experience, and plenty of new coordinators and position coaches. When Chip Kelly came in 2013, Graham became an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and all of a sudden had to drop into coverage. 

He didn't become a starter until the 2015 season. He didn't become a star until last year when Jim Schwartz came to town and brought back the 4-3 alignment that allowed Graham to play to his strengths. Originally, when Schwartz came, Graham was supposed to be a bench player, but he was so good in training camp, he took over as a starter and hasn't given up his spot since. 

Graham has started all but one game in the last two seasons and has become the team's best pass-rusher. 

Not to mention, a Super Bowl hero. 

“It’s so much sweeter because of all the people that doubted me and doubted a lot of guys," Graham said last week. "Vinny (Curry) didn’t start off hot like he wanted to but he ended up getting better, we both did, and we both went through that fire of Washburn. It’s just one of those things where we had to keep fighting, and we fed off each other. All the hard work that we went through finally paid off."