3 and Out: Keys to a victory in Dallas
Nick Foles has played in two bowl games and a Texas state high school title game. (USA Today Images)
“After watching the game today, I'm a Nick Foles believer 100 percent. If he keeps working hard and getting better, that kid’s going to make millions in the NFL.”
That’s not a quote following Nick Foles’ performance against the Raiders or Bears this year. It’s not from Foles’ career with the Eagles at all. It’s not even from his college career.
It’s an anonymous post made by somebody going by “Texasfrog” on a Texas high school football message board on Dec. 24, 2006.
Seven years ago this week. And just a few hours after Foles’ final high school football game.
Foles, then a senior at Austin Westlake High School, completed 24 of 43 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions that day against the No. 1-ranked high school team in the U.S., Southlake Carroll.
Westlake led 15-7 early, but Carroll rallied for a 43-29 win to take the Class-5A championship before about 30,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Who says Foles has never played in a big game?
On Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, about 300 miles north of San Antonio, Foles will play in an even bigger game.
Eagles-Cowboys. Playoff berth at stake.
“State championship in Texas is pretty high,” Foles said. “Bowl games are really high, but that was a big game, growing up.
“At the time in my life, I hadn’t been through college football and you’re playing with all the guys you grew up with and on a big stage against at the time … the No. 1 team in the country.
“We ended up losing but we played them really, really well, and that was tough, but all those games that I’ve played in have. I’ve taken a lot from them. Those were the guys I grew up with. It was family. I knew them forever, since I was in elementary school, so that was a special time.”
With 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions, Foles is the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback with a 118.7 passer rating -- third-highest in NFL history.
The Eagles are 8-2 this year when he’s played more than a half, 1-4 when he hasn’t.
But Sunday night will be by far the biggest start of his career. On the road, in front of 80,000 Cowboys fans and a national TV audience, against the only team that shut him down this year, with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.
Foles played in a couple bowl games at Arizona, but he said that Texas state title game seven years ago is the biggest game he’s played so far.
“I remember warming up in that game and just thinking, ‘This is a dream come true,’" Foles said after practice Thursday.
“To be playing varsity high school football in the state of Texas for Westlake High School and be playing for a state championship, that was a dream.
“And the thing about that season, the beginning of the season, we had a lot of adversity that went on with the team and the players and injuries and stuff like that, so it was how we got there. We didn’t always play well, but we turned it on in the playoffs and we stuck together as a team.
“Sort of like this year. We didn’t start out very well, [but we] started to figure each other out, new identities and stuff like that. You stick together and you believe in each other and you play for each other, and that’s how it was my senior year at Westlake. We believed in each other and we fought for each other.”
Foles played in two bowl games while at Arizona: the Holiday Bowl vs. Alex Henery and Nebraska in San Diego following the 2009 season, and the Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma State a year later. The Wildcats lost those two games by a combined 69-10.
Foles was just 6 for 20 for 28 yards and an interception vs. Nebraska and 32 for 50 for 280 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions vs. Oklahoma State.
As big as Texas high school football is and as big as college bowl games are, Sunday night’s game vs. the Cowboys will be the biggest game of Foles’ life.
“It’s great going back to the state of Texas,” he said. “I was born in Austin, I’m a Texas boy.
“It’s great because there’ll be family there, but when I go there, I’m strictly business. It’s time to play football and when I’m in that stadium, I’m going to zone out everything and just focus on that field and focus on playing with my teammates.
“Of course it’s exciting, but I know what’s important and I can’t let the other stuff distract me because I know what’s on the table.”
A win would give the Eagles their first NFC East title and their first playoff berth since 2010 and make Foles the second-youngest quarterback ever to lead the Eagles to the playoffs.
Foles will be about 24 years, 11 months on Sunday. Donovan McNabb was about 23 years, one month, when the 2000 Eagles reached the playoffs as a wild-card.
“It’s pretty much playoffs because if we lose we’re done,” Foles said. “And we don’t want to be done.
“It’s fun, and we want to keep playing football. It is a different game because it is a do-or-die game, and it’s been fun playing with these guys. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I want to keep playing.”