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August 14, 2019

Natalie Egenolf: An appreciation of Nick Foles, the greatest Philadelphia sports story ever told

It felt like he came out of nowhere. 

The third round pick for the Eagles in the 2012 NFL Draft, Nick Foles was the seventh quarterback taken that year, behind Andrew Luck, RG3, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Wheeden, Brock Osweiler, and Russell Wilson. And his first seasons with the Eagles were a consistent battle for the starting spot against Michael Vick and a broken hand. 

When he finally did get his chance in 2013, he posted a video game-like total of 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also tied the single-game record of seven touchdown passes, led the Eagles to their first playoff appearance since 2010, and not only made the Pro Bowl, but won Pro-Bowl Offensive MVP. His then-record-tying jersey was shipped off to Canton, and it was looking like the Eagles had found their franchise quarterback. 

Not so fast.

While the future looked bright under Chip Kelly, the road was rocky for Foles and the Eagles. The following seasons were marred by mediocre play and another injury. Then, in March 2015, Foles was traded to the Rams for Sam Bradford and became just a blip on the map, another Philadelphia failure, another person who gave us hope for a minute only to be forgotten as we continued the search for the QB who was going to deliver, completely unaware that he was right in front of us this whole time. 

That’s why heading into the 2017 season, the re-signing of Foles seemed almost laughable. Andy Reid, the guy who originally drafted Foles then signed him again as a backup after his flamed out in St. Louis, and the Chiefs had released him. I mean, we already had this guy? He’s a journeyman at this point, could he still even play? I suppose it didn’t initially matter, since we had just found our savior in Carson Wentz, the one who was going to lead us to the Super Bowl, eventually. 

This is where the Nick Foles story turns into the greatest story in Philadelphia sports history. 

With Wentz, we believed we were going to win the Super Bowl "eventually," not that year. But after an MVP-caliber start to the season for the second-year passer, fans were suddenly believing. And then Wentz went down, and Foles was suddenly back under center for the team that drafted him 88th overall. Only now, with a Super Bowl-caliber roster around him and a fanbase that was nearing a fever pitch — not to mention that this was Foles' chance to reinvent his career — the stakes were at an all-time high. 

It didn't get off to the prettiest start, with the Eagles not playing their best football heading into the postseason. And that led to the Birds, who were the No. 1 seed in the NFC, playing as the underdog in each of their playoff games that year. But that didn't matter to Foles and the Eagles.

Each time No. 9 had to make a decision, each time the ball was released from his hands, each time he hit the ground — down after down, play after play — every moment from Week 14 to that final game against the Patriots, the entire city of Philadelphia was holding its collective breath. 

And then we won it. We won it all. 

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl and Nick Foles carried the city on his back with them. People danced in the streets. They hugged and they cried. We remembered those who we lost that had watched every second of every game only to never see that parade on Broad Street. This was for them, this was for us. The man who was doubted by everyone turned into Rocky personified.

Sure there are other great stories in our sports history — the Broad Street Bullies, that 1980 Phillies team, the '82 Sixers, the '08 Phils finally ending the drought. Those were all great stories, but none is as great as Nick Foles, mostly because it was so unexpected. That’s what makes him so special. 

After years of being the laughing stock of the NFL (or at least the NFC East), Eagles fans could finally say we did it, and we did it our way. Sure, it’s a bit played out, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it almost seems poetic that our first Super Bowl came at the hands of an underdog, which would be the most Philly way to reach that ultimate goal. 

Nick Foles set us up to continue as champions — we are underdogs no more. 

Foles signed with the Jaguars, who face the Eagles in the second week of the preseason, in free agency this offseason. Unfortunately, we will not get to see the Wentz vs. Foles matchup that we had all hoped for on Thursday night, with both starting quarterbacks again sitting out. But the now Eagles legend is still melting our hearts. 

Foles revealed this week the reason that he will not be wearing No. 9 in Jacksonville. According to Foles, No. 9 is for Philadelphia. And Philadelphia only.

Perhaps, for now, it’s best to leave things as they are — once you leave here you become the enemy (sorry, not sorry). Nick Foles, however, is still not a competitor of ours (at least not until he steps onto the field against the Birds). But even after that happens, he’ll still forever be our No. 9, our Super Bowl XLII MVP and the greatest Philadelphia sports story ever told.

Follow Natalie on Twitter: @NatalieEgenolf

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