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Nick Foles Can Beat You at Football, Basketball and Ultimate Frisbee
The one near constant in Foles’s life has been his confidence, and the confidence he seems to inspire in the people around him. Much of that confidence comes from a natural athleticism that allows him to pick up just about any sport he tries with ease.
In front of the news media, Foles, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 243 pounds, is reserved and complimentary. He cites his Christian faith, praises his teammates and does everything a public relations staff would ask of a starting quarterback. But his teammates paint a picture of someone brimming with the attitude and ability that led to his being recruited by major Division I programs in two sports.
“He lets everyone know how good of a basketball player he was,” said Zach Ertz, the Eagles’ star tight end. But Ertz, who played basketball for Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., couldn’t help but add, “I think I can beat him one-on-one.”
It was more of the same from Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia’s top wide receiver, who acknowledged Foles’s basketball skills while insisting he could beat him. But the team’s No. 2 receiver, Nelson Agholor, seemed convinced that Foles could hold his own regardless of the sport he was playing.
“You’ve got to see him in Ultimate Frisbee,” Agholor said. “We do a little conditioning in Ultimate Frisbee in the off-season. This dude’s got hands, got routes. Stupid athletic.”
Faulkner acknowledges having a bias for Foles after coaching him on Westlake’s varsity basketball team for parts of four seasons. He said it was incredible to watch the young player warm up. Foles would shoot 30-footers flat-footed, as if they were free throws, and had a tendency to put so much zip on his passes that his teammates had trouble handling them.
To Faulkner, the only thing that stopped Foles from becoming a Division I basketball player, if not a professional, was the fact that he was never able to make it his top priority.
“At a school like Westlake, and in Texas, period, football rules the roost,” Faulkner said. “It is priority No. 1.”
While everything, on and off the field, seemed to come easily to Foles in high school, the path has not been smooth since. On Brees’s recommendation, he sought out Dr. James Andrews to have his shoulder repaired. He decommitted from Arizona State, choosing instead to go to Michigan State, where he joined a crowded quarterback room with the future N.F.L. players Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins. A desire to be closer to his family, and in warmer weather, led him to transfer to Arizona, which in turn led to his being drafted in the third round by Philadelphia in 2012.
From there, his path continued to wind. He made a Pro Bowl for the Eagles after the 2013 season, had a broken collarbone in 2014 derail him significantly, and then kicked around from the St. Louis Rams to the Kansas City Chiefs and then back to Philadelphia. His signature confidence was shaken to the point that when the Rams cut him in July 2016, he considered retirement.
Asked if he had truly contemplated walking away at 27, Foles said: “Dead serious. Strong enough to where I thought about where my heart was at that point. And if my heart’s not in it, I’m not going to do it.”
But he gritted out a year as a backup in Kansas City, then reunited with Doug Pederson, who had been Foles’s quarterback coach in his first stint with Philadelphia and was now the team’s head coach. Being back with Pederson seemed to reignite Foles’s ability to believe in himself and have that belief become infectious for the people around him.
That would prove important for the Eagles when their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, a Most Valuable Player Award candidate, was lost for the season in a Week 14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
The offense struggled in the first few weeks under Foles, but his teammates never wavered in their support. Their confidence in him seemed unwarranted, right up until Foles torched the Minnesota Vikings for 352 passing yards and three touchdowns in the N.F.C. championship game. The performance proved he could handle the team’s run-pass option offense — something Foles attributed to his time on a basketball court — and it put the Eagles in their first Super Bowl since the 2004 season.
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