Foles got big-game experience in high school

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Foles got big-game experience in high school

“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.

That’s all.

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.”

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

Eagles select WR Shelton Gibson with 5th-round pick

The Eagles added speed on the outside Saturday by drafting West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson in the fifth round (166 overall) of the NFL draft.

Gibson (5-foot-11, 191 pounds) could be a deep threat the Eagles desperately need. He totaled 80 catches and 1,838 yards (23.1 yards per catch average) in his last two seasons for the Mountaineers.

Before selecting Gibson, the Eagles traded back twice. First, they sent the 155th pick to the Titans for the 164th pick and the 214th pick. Next, as the Eagles were on the clock for the 164th pick, they traded back two spots with the Dolphins to obtain the 166th and 184th picks while giving away picks 164 and 194.

Gibson had a less than stellar performance at the combine in early March, running a 4.5 40 despite his deep threat reputation. He redeemed himself at his Pro Day, however, by reportedly running a 4.39.

Gibson also adds value on special teams, as he returned kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown during his sophomore year and racked up 633 return yards in his junior season.

(More coming ...)

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

Eagles select RB Donnel Pumphrey with 2nd 4th-round pick

The Darren Sproles comparison is natural, and it's one Donnel Pumphrey is going to hear a lot after the Eagles took the San Diego State running back in the fourth round, 132nd overall.

So what similarities and differences are there between the two running backs?

"He's definitely bigger than me," Pumphrey (see bio) said with a laugh.

Considering Sproles is 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, that is pretty funny.

"He's going to be a Hall of Famer," Pumphrey said. "I feel like we're (I'm) very versatile, do stuff out of the backfield, just like he does.

"(The comparison) means the world to me. I watched guys like him when he played for the Chargers.

"I look forward to building a relationship and looking up to him and getting different pointers on how I can get better each day. I'm excited."

Pumphrey? He stands 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, but he did a lot of the same things on the college level that the electrifying Sproles has done in the NFL.
 
Pumphrey piled up an NCAA-record 6,405 rushing yards in four years at San Diego State, breaking the Division I rushing record of 6,397 yards set by Overbook High graduate Ron Dayne.

Pumphrey, 10th in the Heisman Trophy balloting this past year, surpassed 1,600 yards and 17 touchdown runs in each of his last three seasons, including a Division-I best 2,133 yards last year -- 10th-most in Division I history.

He averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his career to go with 99 catches for 1,039 yards and finished with 67 total TDs, including five receiving.

Pumphrey also finished his career ranked fifth in Division I history with 7,515 all-purpose yards, eighth with 67 touchdowns and ninth with 62 rushing touchdowns.

He's the only player in NCAA history with 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

Sproles has said the 2017 season, his 13th, will be his final NFL season. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 525 receptions and nine return touchdowns in a brilliant career, including the last three with the Eagles.

The Eagles moved up seven spots in the fourth round to draft Pumphrey, shipping their second fourth-round pick, No. 139, and their seventh-round pick, No. 230, to move up to No. 132.

Despite his lack of size, Pumphrey has never been hurt and averaged 21 ½ touches per game for the duration of his college career.

"I just try to make guys miss, and when it's time to get down I get down," Pumphrey said.

"I don’t think about injuries or anything like that, I just play football to play it. I know injuries come with the game, but I just give my all every time I step on the field. I haven't gotten hurt, and it's been a blessing."

The Eagles are unsettled at running back, with Ryan Mathews in limbo and only 2016 fifth-round draft pick Wendell Smallwood and Sproles also in the mix.

In Pumphrey, the Eagles get a back who survived a staggering 1,158 touches in college.

During the last four years, he had more than 200 more carries than any running back in Division 1 -- 1,059. Justin Jackson of Northwestern was second with 855.

And he never missed a game.

"I've been running the ball since I was about 6 years old and it hasn't taken a toll on me," Pumphrey said.

"Offensive line does a great job getting me to the next level where I'm not able to really take on big hits. I'm just ready to be an Eagle and show everybody what I'm about."

Pumphrey is the first San Diego State player the Eagles have taken since linebacker Matt McCoy in the second round in 2005.

The fourth round is the highest the Eagles have taken a running back in seven years since they drafted all-time franchise rushing leader LeSean McCoy in 2009.

The last running back they selected in the fourth round was Correll Buckhalter out of Nebraska back in 2001.

Buckhalter's former teammate, Duce Staley, is now the Eagles' running backs coach and is a big fan of Pumphrey.

"I built a relationship with Duce Staley at the combine," he said. "He said he loves the way I played. I'm just excited to learn the different aspects of the game from him.

"I can't wait to … learn from guys like Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles and just learn from all the coaches and just doing what I have to do to get better each day," he said.

"I'm ready to do whatever it takes to show that I can earn a role on the team."