Nick Foles has no reminiscence of watching Drew Brees play ball at Westlake High School. He figures if he ever attended one in all his video games — a definite risk as a local of Austin, Texas — he was in all probability enjoying tag or tossing a miniature soccer round someplace past the stands, seeing as he was only a younger boy.
Brees positively remembers seeing Foles play. He returned to Westlake for the 10th anniversary of the staff’s 1996 state championship — nonetheless the one one in school historical past — and watched as Foles led his outdated squad and chased down his outdated data.
“It was truly throughout the season. It was a Friday night time,” Brees mentioned. “I keep in mind flying again and sort of being a part of that homecoming expertise, and the beginning quarterback for my high school on the time was Nick Foles. Humorous how issues play out.”
On Sunday, Brees and Foles will make historical past, turning into the one Tremendous Bowl MVPs who attended the identical high school to face off in a playoff sport when the New Orleans Saints host the Philadelphia Eagles within the divisional spherical (four:40 p.m. ET).
“I do know that [Brees] and I each suppose extremely of the school,” Foles mentioned. “We’ll all the time be a Chap for life, and I do know there will likely be lots of people in Austin watching this sport.”
Brees and Foles had two distinct experiences. One had to overcome lack of measurement and familiarity, not to point out a extremely touted QB in ready; the opposite was a person amongst boys who had to reside up to the moment hype of being “the perfect since Drew Brees.” However those that had been round them noticed frequent traits, developed on the identical fields, which have proved key to their now storied careers.
Brees was a “little outdated scrawny factor” when he arrived at Westlake, in accordance to his outdated defensive coordinator, Derek Lengthy, who later served as Foles’ head coach. Having attended a non-public center school known as St. Andrews, Brees was additionally an unknown — not a part of the feeder system like most of the boys.
Plus, there was a quarterback by the identify of Johnny Rodgers — brother of Jay Rodgers, the varsity QB who would go on to play faculty ball at Indiana — who was set to be the quarterback of the longer term.
“When he got here in there, he actually didn’t know the way to put his pads in his pants,” mentioned Brees’ head coach at Westlake, Ron Schroeder.
“I keep in mind sitting within the stands watching the freshman B staff,” added Lengthy, “and he’d be scrambling round, and he had this distinctive capacity to keep away from tackles and nonetheless get the ball to receivers. A bit bitty factor, and these receivers, I can’t say they caught all of the passes he threw to them, however that basically caught my consideration.”
Brees was going to play for the sophomore staff the following 12 months whereas Rodgers manned the JV squad, however Rodgers tore his ACL in a scrimmage, and as Lengthy put it, “that was the final time Johnny noticed the sphere as quarterback, mainly.”
“Drew isn’t spectacular in camps as a result of he doesn’t rating properly, or he didn’t, on the measurables,” Schroeder mentioned. “His worth is when he will get to play. And when he acquired to play as a sophomore on our JV, you can see his aggressive instincts, his really feel, his recognition, and he simply appeared the half when he was in the course of the sport.”
Brees acquired the varsity gig beginning his junior 12 months, and Westlake went 28-Zero-1 with him on the helm. He tore his ACL throughout the quarterfinals his junior season — an harm that prevented him from taking part in faculty recruitment camps that summer time, one of many causes he obtained solely a pair of faculty scholarship provides — however he returned to lead the Chaparrals to a 16-Zero file and the school’s solely state title his senior 12 months.
“When it comes to Drew Brees, him being the primary profitable quarterback, I believe that sort of places you in a distinct hierarchy when it comes to issues round right here,” mentioned Steve Ramsey, present Westlake principal and Foles’ former offensive coordinator.
“Plenty of the stuff we discuss as a program when it got here to gamers like Drew is how he ready every week, the way in which that he led the staff, private traits of what it takes for somebody to have success. One of many greatest issues that we discuss in our program is when right onerous work turns into enjoyable, success will comply with. Coach Schroeder and Coach Lengthy, once they would discuss Drew Brees, these had been the issues they might discuss.”
Nonetheless, Schroeder won’t fake that he noticed any such NFL success coming for Brees.
“No. I don’t suppose anybody round right here would say that,” he mentioned. “Most professional guys in high school, they stick out. There’s one thing about them, be it Earl Campbell or Vince Younger, there’s one thing about him bodily. [Drew] didn’t.”
“Effectively, he was 6-foot-four as a freshman, in all probability about 210 kilos and had an incredible arm,” Lengthy mentioned. “That’s a fairly good place to begin.”
Ramsey remembers watching Foles play varsity basketball as a freshman. The kind of aggressive edge he performed with whereas going toe-to-toe with upperclassmen would translate over to the soccer world properly, he thought.
The phrase on Foles was out even earlier than that. He was making a buzz in this system courting again to center school.
“There was numerous discuss him. They’d say, ‘Effectively, that is the perfect quarterback to come via right here since Drew.’ We all the time took that with a grain of salt as a result of loads can occur between freshman 12 months of high school and senior 12 months,” Lengthy mentioned. “However we felt like he had the potential to be an impressive quarterback for us.”
Foles was the backup QB his sophomore season. If you would like to know the place his receiver abilities got here from, the Chaps used him as a decent finish that 12 months to hold him within the combine.
“He did catch one other landing in high school as sophomore, however the Philly Particular was slightly bit more than our little soar cross to a 6-5 man on the purpose line,” Ramsey mentioned with fun. “That was slightly more magical.”
Foles went on to throw for 5,658 yards and 56 touchdowns as soon as he took the reins as a junior, breaking Brees’ data of 5,464 yards and 50 touchdowns.
He additionally guided Westlake to the state championship sport as a senior, although the Chaps fell quick in that one.
For the entire aerial accomplishments, it was Foles’ name to stick to the bottom sport that resonated probably the most with Ramsey.
“We had been enjoying a staff within the first spherical of the playoffs [in 2006] and that they had a fairly high-powered offense as properly,” he recalled. “It was a type of video games the place you can inform it was going to be fairly high-scoring and we had been operating the ball successfully. Nick discovered me and one of many operating backs and we talked, and he sort of had the thought, ‘We’re doing actual properly. Let’s hold the protection off the sphere and let’s simply run the ball the entire second half.’ It turned out we won, which was improbable, but it surely simply spoke volumes about how Nick places the staff first, that’s crucial factor.”
As you would possibly count on from a school that produced Brees and Foles, Westlake promotes staff success over particular person accomplishment. So there are not any shrines to them just like the one you may discover of Foles in Chris Lengthy’s locker.
As an alternative, you may have to sift via their staff composites outdoors the locker room, or search the array of about 50 pictures close to the fitness center of those that have moved on to play collegiate ball, to discover a picture of them.
But their presence could be very a lot felt — and not simply throughout weeks the place the 2 stars are squaring off within the playoffs. That is the second time they’ve gone head-to-head within the postseason. The primary was again in 2013 and resulted in a 26-24 Saints win.
Although Brees wore No. 15 at Westlake and Foles No. 7, each went on to put on No. 9 within the execs. The little retailer on campus sells No. 9 Chaps jerseys of their honor, and the stands are stuffed with them on Friday nights. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who’s additionally a Westlake alum, was seen carrying a Brees No. 15 Westlake jersey earlier than main the Longhorns previous Georgia within the Sugar Bowl.
Brees and Foles do group occasions in Austin, and Foles, along with his household nonetheless within the space, is understood to pop in from time to time. When he was rehabbing from a shoulder harm a number of years again, he jumped onto the sphere with the Westlake staff a few instances to throw to the receivers.
“That was a giant deal for our youngsters on the time as you may think about,” present Westlake head coach Todd Dodge mentioned.
Leaders of this system nonetheless evoke their names, but it surely’s not to communicate of data or legendary moments in massive video games, they are saying. As an alternative, it is to focus on how the 2 quarterbacks ready every week, the way in which they led their groups, and the non-public traits it takes for somebody to have success.
“I believe they’re each very humble younger males — I suppose I can nonetheless name Drew a younger man — and they don’t have egos, and they readily break up the reward after a win to offense line, the receivers, to the protection, and it’s a honest factor,” Lengthy mentioned. “I believe while you’re on a soccer staff and you see a quarterback who by the character of the sport is the focus, and he deflects that reward and he acknowledges your contribution, I believe it truly is a key half in a staff bonding and a staff being profitable.”
Added Dodge: “As a head soccer coach on the high school degree, we’re all the time making an attempt to be molding younger males and we don’t have to level any additional than the 2 guys that performed proper right here at Westlake to guys who’re simply large males and large teammates.”
ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter Mike Triplett contributed to this story.