If you’re looking for an ideal place to bask in the magic that Nick Foles has created over the last few games, you don’t have to look farther than the NovaCare Complex.
On the top shelf of defensive end Chris Long’s locker lies a shrine dedicated to the Eagles’ quarterback, complete with a copy of Foles’ book Believe It, a picture of him throwing, and religious candles. It’s just a few yards from where Foles gets changed before and after practice. Right down the street at Lincoln Financial Field, fans can pose with a statue of Foles calling the iconic “Philly Special” in the Super Bowl.
You know where you can’t find a special dedication to Foles? His own high school.
Sure, Westlake High School in Austin, Texas has Foles’ picture on a wall. It’s just next to dozens of other former football players who went on to play in college including fellow alum Drew Brees, who will face off against Foles on Sunday when the Eagles play the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round.
It will be the second time the two have faced off in the playoffs after the Saints defeated the Eagles 26-24 in the 2013 Wild Card round at Lincoln Financial Field. But this will be the first time in NFL history that two Super Bowl MVPs, Foles in LII and Brees in XLIV, from the same high school will battle in the playoffs.
But do Foles or Brees have any special honors back home for winning the highest individual award in the biggest game? Nope.
“That's something we get asked a lot – where's the Brees and Foles wall,” said Westlake principal and Foles’ former offensive coordinator Steve Ramsey on Tuesday. “We value all of our students and I think that kind of resonates with our students and they get it. That's part of being successful and carrying yourself. I think you see that in the way Nick and Drew treat their teammates and their opponents.”
The truth is, Foles and Brees probably wouldn’t even want their own walls. The two enormously successful Westlake alumni are also two of the more genuine people in the NFL and that, according to Ramsey, comes straight from the values they learned in West Austin.
Westlake has been extremely proud of Foles and Brees and the entire community will be watching their two stars go at it on Sunday in just another chapter of their outstanding careers.
“I think it's just fantastic to see both of them still performing at that level,” Ramsey said. “It confirms for our community that if you do things right in high school, good things will happen to you.
“Here's someone they (the students) can relate to, who walked the same halls, parked in the same parking lot, went to the same area for lunch, had the same teachers. That just resonates with our kids that, if you really put in the time and effort, and are really passionate about something, then good things will follow you.”
Foles’ ability to lead the underdog Eagles to their first Super Bowl title last season and then come in relief again this year to guide the Eagles to an improbable playoff berth and victory on the road has shocked the collective football world.
Just don’t count Ramsey among that group. He’s seen that movie a few times before.
In the 10th game of his junior year, Foles was the starter with the district title on the line. He threw three touchdown passes in the final seven minutes of the game to deliver the victory. Ramsey estimated that most of Foles' 383 passing yards, which set a school record at the time, came in the fourth quarter.
In a Texas state playoff game, Foles met with his running backs at halftime and urged Ramsey to run the ball exclusively in the second half. Foles knew they could get yards, control the clock, and give his defense a rest. In a playoff game, despite having Foles’ rocket arm, the Chaparrals (Westlake’s mascot and native Texas shrubbery) ran the ball on every single play and in the second half and closed out a victory.
“I probably believe it just because I saw him do that when he was 14, 15, 16, and 17 (years old),” Ramsey said. “Nick just has one of the extraordinary wills that he's going to succeed and he's going to do it in all the right ways with his teammates and his embrace of the community.
“Nick's just been that way for a very, very long time,” he added. “The stuff that Nick does and his ability to always find a way to help out his teammates and put them in the best position for success, I think that's just always been a big part of his character.”
Brees delivered Westlake its only Texas state championship in 1996. In the NFL, Brees has the all-time passing yards record and is second all time in passing touchdowns. But at Westlake, Foles surpassed Brees’ marks a decade later. They now belong to current University of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.
But most important to the Westlake community is who they are as people. When Foles was a senior, Westlake celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its state title. Brees went out of his way to fly to Texas and surprise his former teammates during the same weekend he had a game with the Saints.
Foles said Wednesday that he was probably playing tag or having a catch with his friends during Brees' games so he doesn't remember watching Brees play in high school. But he followed Brees' career through college at Purdue and into the NFL.
"Drew's a Hall of Famer, one of the best quarterbacks ever, but the thing that's always impressed me is who he is as a person and what he represents and how he impacts the community," Foles said. "How he impacted his community in New Orleans is more impressive than anything he's done on the field. So, he's a great role model.
"I know he and I both think highly of the school and growing up, being a part of the football program, being a part of the basketball program, and just going to school there, getting the education, we'll always be Chaparrals for life and I know there's going to be a lot of people in Austin watching this game."
Foles still has family in the area who Ramsey said will attend Westlake in the future. Like Brees, Foles has made visits as well, most recently two years ago to speak with student-athletes in the spring.
“I think that they have an unbelievable belief in themselves and they compete at the highest level all the time,” Ramsey said. “They hold themselves to a very high standard of conduct on and off the field … and I think if you just look at the way those two guys go about their business still, and they've had great NFL careers, that's something you can see. They still have fun, but they're going to make sure things get done correctly and, obviously, success has followed them.”
Westlake has a saying: “Once a Chap, always a Chap.” It was printed on shirts sold before Brees’ Super Bowl appearance in 2010 to benefit his foundation. Last season, those shirts were back and sold to benefit the Chaparral Club and the Longhorn Paralysis Foundation with the word “Believe” added over a photo of Foles. They were designed by Foles’ mother, Melissa.
This Sunday, when the two square off in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with historic seasons hanging in the balance, Ramsey said there’s a bit of irony in it. The Westlake football team’s banquet is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST while the game kicks off at 3:40 p.m. Ramsey expects to see the students peeking at their phones to catch the action.
And whether the Eagles or Saints pull out the victory and get to the NFC Championship Game, everyone in the community expects to see more Westlake heroics.
“We've just seen it long enough and just what Nick did for his community when he was playing here, just like Drew,” Ramsey said. “We're always going to believe that those two guys can do magical things when they want to.”