On a perfect, sun-splashed Friday night in South Philadelphia, thousands of Eagles fans chanted the fight song, "Fly, Eagles Fly," while nearly 30 players sang along and encouraged the fans.
It's a scene that one might expect on a Sunday in the fall, but it's only the end of May. Training Camp is still about two months away. This lovefest was to support Carson Wentz as his AO1 Foundation hosted its second softball game at Citizens Bank Park.
"It means a lot. I've said it over and over -- I don't think I could have gone to a better city that suits my personality, the blue-collar work ethic," said Wentz, who has been an ambassador for Philadelphia, embracing its culture since his arrival as the second overall pick in 2016. "Just the passion that they bring in everything they do. I love it here. I absolutely love it here. The city gets behind this event. The city gets behind what we're doing."
Entering his fourth season, Wentz has accomplished a lot both on and off the field in his short time with the Eagles. Before his prolific 2017 sophomore Pro Bowl season, Wentz started the AO1 Foundation and its programs are impacting people here in Philadelphia, back in his home state of North Dakota, and in Haiti. Wentz announced that the food truck service portion of his foundation, Thy Kingdom Crumb, will expand to include an ice cream truck this year. Thy Kingdom Crumb fed over 8,000 people in 2018, despite launching just before the start of the season. A multisport complex is under construction in Haiti, with the installation of courts beginning next week.
"I love football. I love playing. I love entertaining fans, all of it, but I think I was put here for a much bigger purpose than that," Wentz said, "so to be able to be a blessing to others is really what it's all about and there's no greater joy than seeing kids' faces light up from those different opportunities of lives being changed through these things that we have going on."
One of the families that has been touched by the AO1 Foundation is the Solberg family from West Fargo, North Dakota. Eleven-year-old Landon Solberg has a rare form of aggressive brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. Through the AO1 Foundation's Camp Conquerors program, Landon was able to attend summer camp last year and will go again this year. The entire Solberg family was on hand for Friday night's festivities.
"It's just awesome to see someone with Carson's talent and his successes in life that he's turning around and using that in such a successful way in the communities back home in North Dakota and out here in Philly," said Landon's mother, Andrea.
Wentz has also made a lasting impression on his teammates. When Wentz was married in 2018, tight end Zach Ertz was one of his groomsmen.
"The dude is my brother forever. He's my brother in Christ. He's my brother in spirit. He's been a huge influence for me, my family. The bond is a lot bigger than just the game," Ertz said. "Whatever he tries to do, he's going try to be the best at it, whether it's leading a foundation or leading a football team or leading a family. He's going to give it his all and I think that's one of the main characteristics why I love him, and a lot of people do."
It wasn't just players on offense who came out to back Wentz. The softball game was a battle of a squad made up of the offensive players against the defense. Former teammate Torrey Smith only spent one year in Philadelphia with Wentz but was sporting a black AO1 Foundation T-shirt in support on Friday night. Defensive end Brandon Graham knows Wentz is special for his ability to galvanize both players and fans alike together for a common goal. That's why it was important for everyone to come out on Friday.
"Chemistry is big. Whenever you can get outside of what we do at work and you come together like this to support one another, you're headed in the right direction," Graham said. "When it gets tight in the heat of the battle, you know how to approach the guys, how to talk to the guys because you've been through stuff with them and this is the start of it."
It was a special night in South Philadelphia as Eagles fans showed once again why they are the best, coming out in droves for a charity softball game to champion their quarterback. And the Eagles players took another step in coming together as a team with a collective eye on big goals for the 2019 season.