Arizona transfer put Nick Foles on path to Eagles

ap-eagles-nick-foles.jpg

Arizona transfer put Nick Foles on path to Eagles

This is the fourth 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. Part II on the women in his life, his mom and wife, ran Monday. Part III on how he chose football ran Tuesday.

One difficult decision Nick Foles made in May of 2008 could very well have dramatically altered the course of not only Foles’ life and career but also of the Eagles’ franchise for the next 10 years.

The decision: Leave Michigan State and enroll at Arizona.

The result: Foles got to play college football and ultimately wound up as the Eagles’ quarterback.

"When I look back at everything,” Foles says now, “I really think that you have moments in your life where you can go one way or you can go another.”

Foles, then just 18 years old, had just finished his freshman year at Michigan State. He redshirted that football season -- he got into one game against Alabama-Birmingham and threw eight passes -- and with current Redskin Kirk Cousins and Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol set to battle for the Spartans’ starting quarterback job, Foles just didn’t have a reason to stay in East Lansing.

He loved Michigan State, but he knew there was a very good chance his football career would never materialize if he stayed.

“There was a moment there where I didn't know what to do, what direction to go,” he said. “I was 18, from Texas, up there, and I just prayed to have God, ‘Guide me.’ And I had tears in my eyes because I had no clue what to do.

“I talked to the family and talked to coach [Mark] Dantonio and decided it was best to go elsewhere. It was a very tough decision. I mean, I don't think I had a horrible year. I developed a lot of great friendships. (Current Eagle receiver) B.J. Cunningham was there with me. We had a lot of great times. Brent Celek's brother (Garrett) was my roommate. Love that Garrett to death.

“You’re leaving all those guys that you've developed friendships with, but I just knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do.”

Foles, who had originally committed to Arizona State as a high school junior, wound up transferring to Arizona.

He joined a program that won only four bowl games in school history and hadn’t had a winning record in nine years.

Foles didn’t have much talent around him at Arizona and won just 15 of 35 starts. But Andy Reid, then the Eagles’ head coach, loved his toughness and grit and used a third-round pick to select him in the 2012 draft.

Foles showed flashes in 2012, becoming the first rookie in NFL history to complete 60 percent of his passes while throwing for at least 240 yards per game.

But he won just one of six starts on an awful team and didn’t even begin the 2013 season as the starter. But after replacing an injured Michael Vick, he blossomed, going 8-2, setting several NFL records, fashioning the third-highest passer rating in league history and earning Pro Bowl MVP honors.

If he stayed at Michigan State?

Who knows where Foles would be right now? Who knows who the Eagles' quarterback would be?

That decision was monumental.

“When I was going through the transfer process, I was going to try initially to stay in the state of Texas,” Foles said. “And no one offered. No one really even gave me a look, really.

“And Arizona, coach (Sonny Dykes, offensive coordinator) had recruited me when he was at Texas Tech. He said, ‘Hey, we’d really like you to come here, but we don’t have a scholarship. You’d have to be a walk-on the first semester.’

“It was just one of those things where making that decision to walk on at Arizona was a big life decision. ‘Do I want to do this? Should I do this?’ I knew I would regret it if I didn’t give it everything I had.”

That first season, in the fall of 2009, Foles lost a training camp battle for the starting quarterback job with Matt Scott.

But after Scott struggled the first three games, Foles became the starter and stayed there the rest of his college career.

And even though he threw for only 57 yards in his Michigan State career, he said he looks back at the experience as an important one in his development.

“I learned a lot about myself that year,” he said. “When I went to Arizona, what I went through at Michigan State equipped me to go through the battles I would have upcoming with sitting out a year, going to be the scout team quarterback every single day, going in a quarterback battle my redshirt sophomore year, not winning the quarterback battle, being a backup, and then all of a sudden I get an opportunity against Iowa and we go on an 80-yard touchdown drive and I throw it to Juron Criner [for a touchdown].

“It’s just one of those things where if I didn’t have Michigan State and went through that, I don’t think I would have been able to do what I did at Arizona. And when I say, ‘do,’ I mean able to handle the situation, every day, just not let it get to me, and just keep working.

“Everybody says it’s luck. Well, it’s, ‘Are you prepared for that opportunity when it arises?’ Because some people aren’t and then they never get another one.

“I knew at that time I would probably get one opportunity and if I didn’t show it, it might not ever happen again.”

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.

NFL Notes: Saints DT Nick Fairley to miss 2017 season with heart condition

NFL Notes: Saints DT Nick Fairley to miss 2017 season with heart condition

METAIRIE, La. -- Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is coming off one of his best NFL seasons and it might have been his last.

At the very least, he won't be playing for New Orleans in 2017.

General manager Mickey Loomis said Monday that Fairley has been placed on the team's reserve list with a non-football illness designation, meaning the 2016 starter is out for this season.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Fairley had a career-best 6 sacks for the Saints last season, after which he signed a four-year extension worth up to $28 million.

However, symptoms related to an enlarged heart caused Fairley to miss offseason practices and minicamp while he saw specialists to determine whether playing football would be an undue health risk.

Saints coach Sean Payton has said at least one specialist recommended that the 29-year-old Fairley -- a former Auburn star and 2011 first-round draft pick by Detroit -- give up football. Payton also had mentioned that he wanted to be sure Fairley wouldn't return unless he was confident enough in his health to play to his full potential.

"The most important thing right now in our mind is his well-being," Payton said earlier this month, when Fairley's status for this season was still in doubt.

"To play this game, there's a little bit of mental toughness involved, obviously. I want to make sure, if in fact he's playing it, again that he's playing with full confidence that he's healthy to play and that nothing severe would come of him playing."

Vikings: Floyd sentenced to 1 day in jail
An Arizona judge has ordered Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Michael Floyd to serve one day in jail for failing alcohol tests that he blames on a type of fermented tea.

Floyd and his lawyer did not attend the Scottsdale City Court hearing and had a teleconference with Judge Statia Hendrix.

The hearing was meant to give Floyd the chance to make his case regarding the failed alcohol tests and another one he missed earlier this month, which stemmed from a 2016 drunken driving arrest where Scottsdale police say they found him passed out behind the wheel.

Vikings officials say they encouraged Floyd to drink a fermented tea called kombucha.

Hendrix ordered Floyd start his additional jail time Monday evening in Phoenix before concluding his final five days of house arrest.

Panthers: Newton throws for 1st time since shoulder surgery
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Cam Newton is throwing again.

The Panthers said on Twitter on Monday the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2015 threw his first passes since surgery in March for a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Newton is on schedule to participate in the team's training camp in July and barring setbacks should be ready for the start of the season.

The Panthers released a short black-and-white video of Newton throwing in the team's locker room.

Newton turned down interview requests through the team's public relations staff. He said on the team's website that while he's not 100 percent it felt "cool" to be throwing for the first time in six months.

Packers: Former RB Ahman Green charged with child abuse
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Former Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green was charged Monday with felony child abuse after his 15-year-old daughter told police he punched her in the face.

Green, 40, is also charged with disorderly conduct in the incident late Sunday in the Green Bay suburb of Ledgeview.

According to a criminal complaint, Green's daughter told police that he struck her in the face in a dispute over getting her to do the dishes. She also said he threw her to the ground and against kitchen cabinets.

According to the complaint, Green told deputies he "may have" thrown his daughter to the ground and against cabinets. He said he slapped her in the head and believed he may have hit her glasses, causing a swollen eye, according to the complaint.

A court commissioner ordered Green's release Monday on a $2,500 signature bond after ordering him to have no contact with his daughter or others who may have witnessed the incident.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports Green's next court appearance was set for July 11, to give him time to hire an attorney. Green appeared in court via teleconference from the Brown County Jail. Lee Schuchart, a public defender representing Green at Monday's appearance, called the incident "a constitutional issue" involving "parental rights."

Lammi Sports Management, which has handled Green's appearances, had no immediate comment.

Green was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2014. He is the team's all-time leading rusher and a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

Green starred at Nebraska, then spent the first two seasons of his 12-year NFL career in Seattle. He played for Houston in 2007-08, but spent most of his career in Green Bay, his last season coming in 2009.