- Rick Cantu American-Statesman Staff
It was 2 degrees below zero when Nick Foles arrived at a downtown Minneapolis hotel after his MVP-winning performance in Super Bowl LII on Sunday night.
About 20 friends and family members were ready to celebrate with a late-night dinner when the guest of honor walked through the revolving door. Larry and Melissa Foles were the first to greet their son in the lobby. They were soon joined by Nick’s wife, Tori, and the couple’s 7-month-old daughter, Lily, who made her national TV debut when Foles, the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, held the baby aloft before accepting his MVP trophy after the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots.
At 1 a.m. Monday, it was family time for Foles, a Westlake High School graduate who hours earlier had become the second quarterback reared in Austin to lead a team to an NFL championship.
He soon noticed a TV in the corner of the room that was showing highlights of the Eagles’ triumph. He stopped and stared.
Foles had outplayed future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, passing for 373 yards and three touchdowns to give the City of Brotherly Love its first chance to hug a Super Bowl trophy.
“What just happened?” Larry Foles said his son asked him during a rare father-son moment before the family dinner.
“Nick is probably the most unassuming human being alive,” his dad said by phone Monday from Minnesota. “It was like Nick was saying, ‘Wow, this is me?’ When he watches himself on TV, he says he can’t believe that’s really him.”
On Monday, Nick, Tori and Lily boarded a plane to Orlando, Fla., where they were honored with the traditional parade at Disney World that awaits a Super Bowl MVP. On Thursday, they will be in downtown Philadelphia for a parade in the Eagles’ honor.
Nearly 1,200 miles from Minneapolis, football fans with ties to Westlake — and fans who just wanted to see the local boy shine — were cheering, too. At Westlake, gray T-shirts with a photo of Foles pointing skyward — designed by his mother — have been selling throughout the NFL playoffs. More than 1,000 shirts from a shipment of 1,400 had already been purchased by Monday afternoon.
Westlake has reason to be proud. Foles, a 2007 graduate, joined fellow Westlake alum Drew Brees as the only former Texas high school quarterbacks to play in the Super Bowl. Brees was named MVP after he led the New Orleans Saints past the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. The only other Super Bowl quarterbacks to attend the same high school are brothers Eli and Peyton Manning. The latter directed the Colts’ offense in the loss to Brees and the Saints.
“Nick is the most genuine, sincere athlete I’ve ever been around who’s made it to this level,” said Westlake Principal Steve Ramsey, who was the Chaparrals’ co-offensive coordinator when Foles was on campus.
Derek Long, Foles’ head coach at Westlake, recalls a humble player who was respected by his teammates.
“I’ve told people for years that Nick and Drew have the same demeanor,” Long said. “Nick had no ego when he played here. And when I’ve seen interviews with him in the pros, it’s the same way. He gives credit to his linemen, the defense, the receivers. He never says, ‘I did this’ or ‘I did that.’ … By nature the quarterback always gets an abundance of attention. He’s always gone out of his way to recognize his teammates. And when he did that, his teammates wanted to play harder for him.”
Todd Dodge was the head coach at Southlake Carroll when his team took on Foles and the Chaparrals for the Class 5A, Division I state championship in 2006. Carroll won the game 43-29, but Dodge came away impressed by Foles.
“Something people didn’t know about Nick back then was his toughness,” said Dodge, who became Westlake’s head coach before the 2014 season. “Here’s a guy who’s 6-6 and 240 pounds, and I’m trying to think how are we going to get him on the ground.”
Dr. Newt Hasson, an Austin orthopedic surgeon and Westlake’s team doctor since 1985, has similar memories of Foles.
“Nick was so big and so strong in high school, he could stand in the pocket and have defensive players draped all over him, and they still couldn’t bring him down,” Hasson said.
Dodge, who watched Sunday’s game at a local sports bar, said he was amused by the touchdown pass Foles caught. In perhaps the signature moment of the Eagles’ victory, Foles became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to catch a touchdown pass.
Foles said he scored for Westlake on a similar play in 2006. On Monday, University of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger, also a former Chaparral, posted video on social media of a similar play he ran two years ago while in high school.
The play is called “Money Five,” Dodge said Monday.
Last fall, Westlake quarterback Taylor Anderson ran the play three times, the coach said, and it worked every time.
Perhaps the seed for Foles’ rise to become an NFL quarterback was planted before he played at Westlake. Larry Foles, who owns about 30 restaurants across the country, took the family to Phoenix on a business trip when Nick was still in middle school. One day, Nick was enjoying himself poolside at a downtown hotel when he realized his football hero was sitting at the other end of the pool.
It was John Elway. The future Hall of Fame quarterback was coming off a Super Bowl-winning season with the Denver Broncos.
Melissa Foles encouraged her son to get Elway’s autograph. No way, Nick responded. A photo? Nope.
Larry and Melissa eventually intervened and asked Elway if he would take a group shot with the family. He obliged, and Nick now cherishes a keepsake photo of his favorite player.
When Foles played at Westlake, he requested jersey No. 7, Elway’s number. Roughly 15 years later, Foles and Elway share more than a photograph.
Both are Super Bowl MVPs.