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Where Are They Now? CB Elbert Foules

Elbert Foules 1920 102021

Eagles Hall of Fame running back Wilbert Montgomery is credited with 6,538 rushing yards, 266 receptions, 58 total touchdowns – and at least one recommendation.

And as a result, Philadelphia signed Elbert Foules, an undrafted rookie free agent cornerback from Alcorn State in 1983.

"We played against Mississippi Valley State and they had a receiver over there, Jerry Rice. The scouts came out to see Jerry and I had a good game. I think I picked off four interceptions and they got a chance to see what I was doing," Foules says.

"And then my cousin was with the Eagles, Wilbert Montgomery. He was having a camp with Harold Carmichael and when Wilbert saw me covering out there, he realized that I had the ability to play professional football.

"So between them seeing me in a game against Jerry Rice and Wilbert seeing me at his and Harold's camp, I think that's what got me an opportunity to get with the Eagles."

Once in Training Camp, Foules' cousin wasn't the only one who noticed the rookie had some talent. Third-year veteran safety Ray Ellis did, as well.

"Ray was very kind to me and took me under his wing. And Herman Edwards was very nice also. But I had a close rapport with Ray," Foules says. "And, of course, Wilbert always helped all of us."

Getting advice from veterans certainly helps, but it was a huge leap from a small campus in Alcorn, Mississippi, and playing in nearby 10,000-seat Henderson Stadium to living in Philadelphia and playing in the Vet.

"I was in unfamiliar territory and realized very quickly that the brotherly love thing, if you didn't perform, you weren't going to see any brotherly love," laughed Foules. "But the fans were awesome. When you're winning, they love you. And when you're not doing well, they'll let you know. I guess that's the best way to put it."

In 1984, Foules' second season, he was put into the Eagles' starting secondary with Edwards, Ellis, and Wes Hopkins.

"Our head coach, Marion Campbell, was a great defensive mind. And my defensive (backs) coach, Fred Bruney, had a lot of patience with us. And what happened was, a couple of guys got hurt, and I got a chance to get in. And once I got in, I was playing so well, they just left me in there," says Foules, who collected four interceptions.

"You see, they didn't have a lot of confidence in me, initially, coming from a little, small school like I did. But when I got that opportunity, everything just went well."

Unfortunately for Campbell, it wasn't well enough. He was let go with one game remaining in 1985. Bruney became the interim head coach for the season finale in Minnesota, and guided the Eagles to a 37-35 win over the Vikings. The Eagles then hired Buddy Ryan, who had been the defensive coordinator of the newly crowned Super Bowl XX Champion Chicago Bears.

"Coach Campbell and Coach Bruney had taken me under their wings. We were all like a family," Foules says. "I hate that we didn't win when Coach Campbell was there. I really hated that because he was such a great guy. And so when Buddy came in, I was kind of torn because I had grown so close to Coach Campbell and Coach Bruney. But I had to go with the flow."

In Ryan's second season, the flow hit a logjam for the Eagles and the rest of the NFL when the players went on strike after two games. It would turn out to be even worse for Foules.

"I think I was leading the league in interceptions, and there was a play where we were in double coverage. I was short and we had a safety back deep," Foules says. "So in the film room, Buddy said that I was supposed to have got back there. I told him that we were in a Cover 2. I had short responsibility and the safety had deep. I think when I challenged him in that meeting, it didn't go off too well, and Buddy took me out of the lineup.

"If you take a guy out of the lineup, you'll still be the nickel back, but he didn't even put me in as the fifth defensive back. Buddy would come in the dressing room, and he wouldn't speak to me. I didn't play anymore that season, and that really troubled me. To be snatched out of the lineup like that, off to such a great season, it has haunted me for years that that happened."

Foules continued. "I didn't go to camp (in 1988), and Buddy called and asked me to come to camp. And me being bullheaded at the time, and feelings being hurt, I didn't go in. And then when I finally went to camp, I was traded (to the Oilers). I went down to Houston and my head was messed up. That's why I ended my career down there.

"And now don't get me wrong. Buddy was a great guy. A great defensive mind. Because of the misunderstanding that we had, it has nothing to do with how I feel about him as a coach. I grew to love Buddy and respect him. Just like I did with Coach Campbell. I think one of my biggest regrets in life is not making amends with the relationship between Buddy and myself."

Following his playing days, Foules, who played five seasons and collected 10 career interceptions, moved to the sideline and coached football at Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He then became the athletic director and women's basketball coach at a junior college, Southern University at Shreveport (Louisiana).

"My coach quit right before the season started, so I stepped in as head coach. They hadn't won five or six games in the last 20 years, and I took that team to a championship," Foules says. "They pulled it together and we all made it through that season successfully. All my seniors got scholarships. We really had a family relationship there."

Foules' own family consists of "six kids and a bunch of grandkids." Now retired, he makes his home in Mississippi.

"The things that the NFL put in place for guys like me has been wonderful. If they hadn't had certain things in place, my life would be very difficult," Foules says. "But they allow people to assist me with the issues that I have going on in my day-to-day activities. I just want to thank the NFL for all the wonderful things they have in place. They help a lot of people."

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