Philadelphia Eagles News

Old Friends Sanchez And Carroll To Face Off

Mark Sanchez and Pete Carroll were both born in California, separated by 400 miles and 35 years.

Carroll was born in San Francisco in 1951 and did his best over the next 26 years to stay in the Golden State before moving to pursue a life in football. From 1977 to 1999, he spent just three years in California, with 10 separate pit stops that led to his being named head coach at the University of Southern California in 2001.

The very next year, about 55 miles from the USC campus, a 15-year old named Mark Sanchez threw a 55-yard touchdown pass in his first appearance as Santa Margarita High School's quarterback.

In July 2004, Sanchez committed to play for Carroll at USC, a California connection destined to meet in Los Angeles that spawned a good friendship between the two.

Sanchez said this week that he loved playing for Carroll as a Trojan, likening it to the experience he's had in his short time with Chip Kelly and the Eagles.

"[Carroll and Kelly] really emphasize that you work your butt off all week, and then when you get to gameday, just relax and have the time of your life," Sanchez explained Tuesday. "That's what it feels like here, that's what it felt like at USC.

"Everything's going great, we've got good players and a good system. Let's go have fun on Sunday."

This Sunday, nearly six years after Sanchez played his last snap for Carroll's Trojans in a Rose Bowl demolition of Penn State, the two will face off in Philadelphia, far opposite their beloved California. The forecast for Los Angeles on Sunday is 72 degrees and partly sunny; it's supposed to be 39 degrees with a chance of precipitation at Lincoln Financial Field.

But when the two see each other before kickoff, a little slice of California will be reunited once again.

Despite only playing one full season for Carroll in his three years at USC, Sanchez said that he and Carroll have maintained an excellent relationship over the years, as the two have both moved on to bigger and better things in their lives.

"He's great," Sanchez said Tuesday. "He's a really good coach, and a better friend."

The veteran quarterback has faced Carroll once before, when he was a member of the New York Jets in November of 2011. Carroll's Seahawks topped Sanchez's Jets, 28-7, and Sanchez completed just nine passes in the defeat.

Carroll said in a conference call Wednesday that he expects a lot more from his former quarterback when the two meet again this weekend.

"I think he's playing fast," Carroll said. "I think he's playing with a lot of confidence in the system; it's obviously a system that helps the quarterbacks really perform at a high level."

Carroll said he watched Sanchez and the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and he saw play from Sanchez that reminded him of the skill and ability he saw on the field of the Los Angeles Memorial Colliseum during Sanchez's time at USC.

"I've known Mark to be an extraordinary athlete out on the perimeter from his days back in college," Carroll said, "so when he took off against Dallas ... I was cheering for him."

Carroll has made a habit out of cheering for Sanchez, a player and friend with whom he's remained close. Carroll watched Sanchez's play in the preseason this past August and saw a rejuvenated football player, the player he had once coached. It seemed to Carroll that Sanchez fit in well in Chip Kelly's system.

So he sent his former player a text.

"He texted me during the preseason, 'You're doing awesome, doing great, so happy to see you back having fun,'" Sanchez said with a smile. "That means the world to me, because that's somebody I really respect and had so much fun playing for."

This weekend, of course, Carroll will be rooting for his secondary to stifle Sanchez and the Eagles' high-flying offense. The Seahawks possess one of the most fearsome secondaries in the NFL, allowing fewer than 200 yards passing per game. Sanchez, meanwhile, is coming off a stellar performance against the Cowboys in which he completed 20-of-29 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown.

Both California boys are firing on all cylinders right now, making Sunday's contest a must-watch matchup.

But for a few minutes Sunday afternoon, in the cold, gray weather, Sanchez and Carroll will likely just talk. Maybe about California, probably about football. Just talk, like the old friends that they are. Sanchez said he's looking forward to that moment.

"It's going to be good to see him again," he said.

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