How Nick Foles chose football (with assist to LeBron)

usa-nick-foles-part-three-eagles.jpg

How Nick Foles chose football (with assist to LeBron)

This is the third 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 and Part II on the women in his life, his mom and wife.

Before he was a record-setting quarterback, a Pro Bowl MVP, a starter for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, Nick Foles was just a normal kid that loved playing baseball, basketball and football.

And just about any other sport you can think of.

“I was always outside doing something,” Foles said. “When I talk to kids these days there's so many X-Boxes, so many gadgets, there's always something else. I mean we did that, but honestly, we were always outside doing something. Causing havoc, playing backyard football, riding bikes.

“When I go back to my hometown in Austin, you don't see all of that anymore because the big thing is virtual video games. They're fun, I've played them at times, but I always would have rather been out there doing something.”

Foles, like his dad, Larry, was a terrific baseball player as a kid, and he was even better at basketball. He was one of those kids who could do anything. You name the sport. He could have played college hoops at the Division 1 level, and he probably would have been pretty good at it.

Fortunately for the Eagles, Foles pursued football. He went 8-2 last year after replacing an injured Michael Vick, leading the Eagles to a 7-1 record the second half of the season and a playoff berth before going to the Pro Bowl and earning MVP honors.

But long before he settled on football, young Foles was into baseball more than anything.

“Yeah, I was a big baseball player,” he said. “In middle school I gave it up. I decided to play year-round and it was just too much for me. At that time I was doing baseball, basketball, football, karate. And my heart was in football and basketball, which it still is.”

Foles said he loved playing hoops and even made varsity in high school as a freshman.

“Basketball I love just as much as football,” he said. “It’s just that I decided to go this route and I’ve put more time into football since high school, so football’s gone better. I can still play basketball. I just never really got better. I just go out there and wing it.”

A coaching switch on the basketball staff before his junior year at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, ultimately pointed him to football.

“I had great head coaches all in high school, but my high school head coach for basketball ended up leaving after my sophomore year,” he said. “So it was just one of those things where the JV coach was my coach and I really liked him. But the coach that I had really bonded with as a freshman had left, so I was like, ‘All right.’

“It sort of messed with me a little bit. And then I don’t know, I think my junior year I had a good year of varsity football, and I was like, ‘All right, I think I can do this thing.’ And senior year I had a really good year, went to the state championship.

“I think I committed to Arizona State after my junior year, so at that point I came to the realization that I looked at LeBron James and was like, ‘I don’t think I can do that. But I think I can throw a football.’

“So I had to keep it real with myself. I knew I could play college basketball and hopefully be a good player. But if I wanted to go on to the next level, it would have had to have been a miracle.”

Point guard ... quarterback ... Long before the Eagles drafted Foles, he knew he wanted to be the guy running the offense.

No matter what sport.

“I really wanted to have the ball in my hands,” he said. “My mom gave the picture to some news site where they put it up, and the picture’s everywhere, but the second day [after] I was born, my dad put a football in my hand.

“So I guess it was just sort of writing on the wall then through all the ups and downs. I just always liked playing quarterback.

“When I played basketball, the last-second shot, my team always wanted to get me the ball. The coach knew I wanted it, but the team, we would draw up a play so I would shoot it. And I just liked having my hands on the ball when it was crunch time and I had to make a decision.

“Ever since I started playing football I wanted to be a quarterback. I was a quarterback. My first year of flag football I actually sat the bench and didn’t play so that really was tough. But then after that I really never let it go.”

Part I: Foles' success comes from heroes: Mom and Dad

Part II: Women in Nick Foles' life keep him humble

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

ESPN hires Chip Kelly as college football studio analyst

Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is joining ESPN as a studio analyst next season.

ESPN announced Friday it has signed Kelly to a multiyear deal.

Kelly will primarily be part of Saturday pregame, halftime and wrap-up shows on ESPN2. He will also provide NFL analysis on Sundays during SportsCenter.

The 53-year-old Kelly spent the last four seasons in the NFL, coaching the Philadelphia for three years and San Francisco for one. Kelly was fired by the 49ers after going 2-14 last season. He was 26-21 with a playoff appearance for the Eagles.

Before jumping to the NFL, Kelly spent four seasons as Oregon head coach and went 46-7. In 2010, Kelly led the Ducks to the BCS title game and was The Associated Press coach of the year.

Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas front-runners to face NFL's top receivers

Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas front-runners to face NFL's top receivers

Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Terrelle Pryor, Larry Fitzgerald. 

That's the murderers' row of receivers the Eagles will face during the 2017 season, cornerback deficiency and all. 

This week, we got our first look at who the Eagles are tasking with the unenviable challenge of trying to stop — or at the very least slow down — some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. 

At their first OTA practice of the spring, Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson were the team's starters in the base package, while rookie Rasul Douglas was on the field as the third corner in the nickel package. 

"The way Coach Cory Undlin works and the way Coach (Jim) Schwartz works, this depth chart right now is not important," Mills said. 

"It's about going out there and proving to those guys each and every day that you deserve whatever spot they have you in or moving up the depth chart." 

While it's true the depth chart at the first practice in the spring might not mean much, and while it's also important to remember that veteran Ron Brooks is recovering from a quad tendon tear, if Mills, Robinson and Douglas perform well enough, they won't ever give up their jobs. 

Of course, that's a big if. 

Mills was a seventh-round pick last year, who had a decent season but also went through his ups and downs. Robinson is a 29-year-old former first-round pick but has never lived up to that draft status. And Douglas is a rookie third-round pick. 

"I really don't have any expectations, just to be the best player I can be," Robinson said. "If I'm the best player that I can be, then I'll be a starter."

It might seem like a stretch to think these three will be able to stop the marquee receivers they'll face this year. But it's not like the Eagles have much of a choice. Their two starting corners from a year ago are gone — Nolan Carroll signed with the Cowboys as a free agent and Leodis McKelvin was released and is still without a team. And it's not like either played well in 2016. 

The Eagles drafted Sidney Jones in the second round, but he's not close to returning from his Achilles tear and Brooks isn't yet ready to fully practice. The Eagles also have undrafted second-year corner C.J. Smith and former CFL all-star Aaron Grymes. 

But Mills, Robinson and Douglas are the best they have right now. 

On Tuesday, Mills and Robinson played outside in the team's base package, switching sides sporadically, but in the nickel package, Mills moved inside to slot corner while Douglas took over outside. So, basically, Mills is playing two positions, something Brooks did throughout training camp last season. 

Mills played both outside and slot corner last season, but not like he is now when it seems like he won't be leaving the field. With Mills' staying on the field to play in the slot, Malcolm Jenkins is able to stay back and be the defense's field general at safety instead of sliding down like he's done at times over the last two years. 

"I feel like it's going to be helpful," Mills said. "Not just for me, just for guys like Malcolm, a smart guy who can really play that back end and call out every single thing, whether it's run, pass or route concepts. With not really having him do the busy work and nickel and just have him be the smart, savvy vet on that back end, I think that kind of calms everybody down."

Douglas is the biggest of the bunch at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds. Mills thinks having that type of size can help the team, especially as bigger receivers become more prevalent in the league. 

"You need a big, tall, aggressive guy," Mills said. "[Douglas has] been showing flashes here and there." 

Robinson didn't know much about Mills or Douglas before joining the Eagles on a one-year deal this offseason, but the veteran of the trio has been impressed so far by his younger counterparts.  

Robinson has also been impressed by the level of competition he faced during the first day of spring practices. 

"That's definitely going to benefit me," Robinson said. "Torrey (Smith), with his speed, you get that type of speed every day in practice, it's definitely going to get you ready for the game. And then Alshon (Jeffery), with his big body and his great hands, his catching radius is definitely going to get me ready for games this season against the big guys."

The big and fast guys will be coming plenty during the 2017 season. Mills, Robinson and Douglas — for now — look like the guys who will try to stop them.