How Nick Foles chose football (with assist to LeBron)

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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

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Jason Peters impressed by Doug Pederson, questions Chip Kelly

Heading into his 13th season, Jason Peters has experienced a lot during his exceptional NFL career. So when the eight-time Pro Bowler says head coach Doug Pederson is more respectful of veteran players than the previous regime under Chip Kelly, you take notice.

"I think so," Peters stated frankly on Thursday at training camp (see Day 4 notes). "The last couple years, there wasn't a lot of vets, and any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him.

"Doug was a player here, he understands veteran players and he understands the game, so I think it's better."

Addressing the media for the first time since last season, Peters faced a series of questions about how Pederson differs from his unique predecessor. Schemes and philosophies were topics of discussion, as well, but perhaps the sharpest criticism levied by Peters was Kelly's lack of appreciation for what an NFL player goes through to be ready on Sunday.

"Any time you've got a coach who's been there, done that, he knows about the trenches and he knows about the two-a-days, it definitely helps with a veteran team as a whole," Peters said.

Peters admitted Kelly's practices took their toll on players. If that sounds like a familiar complaint, it's probably because former Eagles cornerback Cary Williams voiced a similar opinion in 2014. On Thursday, Peters echoed and expanded upon Williams' sentiments.

"The same practices that we did in training camp were the same spring practices, exactly the same, so it's pretty much we had training camp the whole offseason," Peters said. "Even OTAs were the same exact practice. It kind of wore us down."

Peters also maintained the unusual practice schedule during the regular season was no help, either.

Most teams practice Monday and take Tuesday off. Kelly did the opposite, so there was no real break leading up to gameday.

"We practiced on Tuesdays when Chip was here, and you felt it on Sundays," Peters said. "I did anyway."

Pederson has mentioned on several occasions the Eagles intend to do everything they can to keep Peters fresh and prepared for Sundays this season, which the 34-year-old says is "just being smart." One way that could manifest itself is an occasional day off during the week.

Although Peters' criticisms of Kelly weren't limited to the workload on veterans, the left tackle indicated the constant uptempo attack may not have done the offense many favors, either.

"If you run 100 times in a row, back to back to back, don't you think your 50th time you're going to be a little slower?" Peters asked. "But if you get a little bit of a rest, you're going to be a little bit faster.

"It's give and take. When you go back to the huddle and you get that wind, you're just a little stronger when you go back to the line, so I think it will help."

Peters added that the simplicity and predictability of Kelly's system became a problem, as well.

"I mean, this is the National Football League, and if the running back is to the left and you're running the zone read, where do you think the ball is going?" Peters asked rhetorically. "To the right.

"They caught up to us. We had some good years there back to back, then last year we had that down year. We just needed to change a little bit up, especially with [quarterback Sam Bradford] back there. They know he's not gonna run it, so it kind of put our hands behind our back."

While Peters believes the return to a more sophisticated, traditional NFL offense under Pederson — one that uses snap counts and chip blocks to help its offensive linemen — will be an enormous improvement for the Eagles.

Peters knows it's on the players to do a better job in 2016, too. At the same time, he feels as though the deck might've been just a little stacked against them.

"We can't really blame it on that, we're professionals," Peters said.

"[The coaches] call the play, and we execute it. But when the [opponents] know, and they're professionals too, and they know what the play is, it's tough."

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

Eagles camp Day 4 notes: Brandon Brooks out; starting O & D

As the Eagles kicked off their first full-squad practice in the bubble on Thursday afternoon, a big part of the offense was missing. 

Starting right guard Brandon Brooks was nowhere to be found. In his place, with the first-team offense, was veteran Stefen Wisniewski. 

Brooks, who signed a five-year, $40 million deal to join the Eagles this offseason, missed practice with a hamstring injury and is listed by the team as day to day. 

The only other player that missed practice is running back Ryan Mathews, who is on the Active/Non-football Injury list with an ankle injury he suffered while training last week (see story).

Offensive starters
Thursday’s light afternoon practice was what Andy Reid used to call a “10-10-10” practice. The term is back under Doug Pederson. Basically, it’s a light practice that goes continually through offense, defense and special teams. But it’s not very conducive for observations because of the format, which is meant to allow the offense or defense to look good. 

But we did get a chance to see the starting units. 

Here’s what the first-team offense (they came out in 11 personnel) looked like to start practice: 

QB: Sam Bradford
RB: Darren Sproles (Mathews was out)
TE: Zach Ertz
WR1: Nelson Agholor
WR2: Chris Givens
Slot: Jordan Matthews
LT: Jason Peters
LG: Allen Barbre
C: Jason Kelce
RG Stefen Wisniewski (Brooks was out)
RT: Lane Johnson

Notes: It’s worth noting that Matthews is still working in the slot way more than he is outside. And Givens, after a nice spring, got the nod to work outside with the first team.

Defensive starters
The defense first came onto the field in the nickel package, so we’ll start there: 

LDE: Vinny Curry
RDE: Connor Barwin
LDT: Fletcher Cox
RDT: Bennie Logan
LB: Jordan Hicks
LB: Mychal Kendricks
LCB: Leodis McKelvin
RCB: Nolan Carroll
Slot: Ron Brooks
S: Malcolm Jenkins
S: Rodney McLeod

Notes: We listed the defense in nickel, but when the Eagles were in base, Nigel Bradham was on the field as the strongside linebacker. The most important thing to note is that when the team was in base, Ron Brooks stayed on the field and moved outside. That’s what the team did most of the spring and it hasn’t changed yet. We’ll have to keep an eye on that. 

North Dakota’s hero
Earlier this week, there were several reporters and a TV crew from North Dakota to watch the progress of their hometown hero Carson Wentz. Wentz said it was cool to see some familiar media faces, especially because he knows how closely fans in his home state are still following his career. 

The rookie hasn’t been home much recently, so he wasn’t sure if the buzz has died down at all since the draft, but he suspects there are many more Eagles fans at home now. 

“I know now that football season is starting to kick up, it’s starting to heat up back home,” he said. “Everyone’s all interested in the Eagles, more than just the local teams around there. It’s pretty exciting. Exciting time for the state of North Dakota, for sure.” 

Odds and ends
• We’ll start with Wentz, who made a great toss on Thursday down the field about 40 yards to shifty wideout Paul Turner. Just a beautiful ball from the rookie. 

• Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Jalen Mills made another play. This time, he was able to get between the ball and Jordan Matthews near the right sideline. Perfect coverage. If he keeps this up once the pads go on Saturday, he’ll earn some playing time this season. 

• Jason Peters spoke for the first time this year after Thursday’s practice. We’ll have plenty on his thoughts and comments, but here’s what stuck out to me: He really didn’t like the way Chip Kelly did some things. He clearly didn’t like the tempo offense or Kelly’s management style. When asked, Peters agreed that Pederson’s staff is way more veteran player-friendly. 

“Any vet that stood up and had something to say, we got rid of him,” Peters said. Yikes. 

• Sproles, Agholor and Rueben Randle worked as the punt returners on Thursday. Obviously, Sproles is the guy, but this gives us an idea of the depth there. 

• Pads go on Saturday. 

• The first open practice (of two) is this Sunday at the Linc at 10 a.m. No tickets needed, just show up. 

Nelson Agholor: 'I fell short of my mission' to represent Eagles, family

Nelson Agholor: 'I fell short of my mission' to represent Eagles, family

When the allegations were first made public on June 10, Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor feared for his football career.

“To be honest with you,” he said, “there were points I thought an opportunity that was given to me to play for this organization and to have the life I have could have been taken from me.”

Agholor last month was accused by an exotic dancer of sexual assault during a visit Agholor made to a gentleman’s club in South Philadelphia in early June.

It wasn’t until about a month later — July 18 — that Agholor was cleared when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office announced that no charges would be filed against the 23-year-old second-year pro.

On Thursday, after his first practice of training camp (see Day 4 notes), Agholor spoke for the first time about the allegations.

“I put myself in a poor situation, and the most important thing for me was to realize that no matter what’s going on, if I make the right decision, I won’t be there,” he said after an afternoon practice in the Eagles’ indoor bubble.

“I put myself in that position going there, and to be honest with you, as I look at it, at the end of the day, it’s either neutral or negative consequences being in a place like that. So I made the wrong decision being there. …

“It definitely puts me in a position where I truly have to re-center my focus and remind myself who I am. You know? Being associated with anything like that is not who I am as a man. Falling short and even being associated with that, you’ve got to make sure you find yourself again and be yourself. Truly be yourself. And that’s what I’m going to do from here on out.”

Agholor declined to talk specifically about what happened at the strip club that day in June, but he did say the first few days, especially after the allegations came out, were very difficult for him and his family.

“Tough. Tough,” he said. “For a few days I sat back and I was in shock. But after a while I had to realize, I put myself in that position and all I can do is grow and find ways to get closer to my family and get closer to the people that had my back and just continue to grow and also train because I couldn’t let it defeat me twice.

“If I had just sat around moping, I wouldn’t be prepared to perform today. So I continued to train, stay with my family and get myself ready.”

Agholor said after the allegations came out, he returned home to Tampa to reconnect with his family and start the process of deciding exactly what kind of changes he had to make in his life to be the person he wanted to be.

“My parents were disappointed,” he said. “But they also understand that the best I could do is respond the right way. The actions were the actions. But what was I going to do after that from here on out?

“[Becoming] closer to my younger brother, taking care of my little sister, being there every day, being there for my family, making the right decisions. And they were proud of the way I responded.”

Agholor, the 20th pick in last year’s draft, had a disappointing rookie year, with just 23 catches for 283 yards and one touchdown.

So even before these allegations were made public, a lot of Eagles fans were disappointed in Agholor.

Now he has more to overcome to win the fans back. Because even though there won’t be any charges against Agholor, his reputation has definitely taken a major hit.

“At the end of the day, what I did gives everybody enough to say, ‘Hey, man, you did something wrong,’” he said. “At the end of the day, they have every right to do that.

“But as a man, I’ve got to do stuff from here on out to show who I am as a person and the type of man I’ll be.

“You never wish for negative things to happen to you, but they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And I swear I feel way stronger. I do.”

It’s hard to imagine anybody coming across more genuine in such circumstances than Agholor Thursday.

His voice shook as he spoke of the faith that Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson, Howie Roseman and Jeff Lurie had in him and how he let them down.

“I fell short of my mission and I understand I should have done a better job,” he said. “From here on out, I have an obligation to do the right thing and to be the right person for this organization.

“What’s going to change? Understanding that every day I have an opportunity to take care of the life I have and to be a good person.

“I made a [poor] decision. I wish I didn’t. But at the end of the day, I have to make a conscious effort every day when I wake up to feed myself the right stuff and be around the right people and make the right decisions and hold myself accountable. So that’s what I’m going to do.”