Philadelphia Eagles: Dear Nick (Part Four); The Foles Factor

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

In the final installment of “Dear Nick”, we focus on Nick Foles legacy with the Philadelphia Eagles as a role model both on and off the field.

Dear Nick Foles,

If there was ever a part of this letter that I would want you to see, that I would want the world to see, it’s the following section.

You’ve accomplished so much more than winning a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles. Your story, your journey, your struggles, and your triumphs are an inspiration. I was a believer and a fan your first time around, but I’m not going to pretend like I knew everything about you off the field, who you were as a person.

These past two seasons, you utilized your platform to spread a message and a belief. You have changed my life in doing so. You taught me, along with many others, so many valuable lessons that we can take with us each and every day. While you were a phenomenal player on the field, you were that much more incredible of a human being off of it.

After reading your book, listening to your end of season press conference and reflecting on your journey, I have compiled the most important mindsets and lessons that you have taught me, and that I will never forget.

Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

Your now famous press conference the day after winning Super Bowl MVP went viral across social media, and the message could not ring more true to our generation. Everybody fails every day, but we live in a world where social media dictates our lives. When we constantly have our phones glued to our eyes, scrolling through multiple platforms, it is so difficult to differentiate reality from the false utopia shining back in our faces. What we see is the end result of a struggle, or the attempt to hide our greatest insecurities, our weaknesses, our failures.

We may see a photo of a friend dressed in cap and gown, flaunting their newly acquired diploma. But what we don’t see are the sleepless nights frantically struggling to keep pace with the overbearing workload, questioning whether the end game is worth the price, pondering their self-value, praying the mental torment would soon resolve.

And that selfie on Instagram with a heavy filter and blissful caption, in reality, acts as a facade to conceal the surge of constant panic attacks. The pent-up feelings of anxiety and pressure to live up to a certain standard, to be what they believe the world expects them to be. But they’re too afraid to tell us. So they smile. It is absolutely a highlight reel.

Failure is something you experienced far before the NFL. In High School, you failed to follow in Drew Brees’ footsteps and win the State Championship. At Michigan State, you felt lost, alone and ready to call it quits, while your friends basked in the glory of their immaculate college experience back home. At the combine, your performance wasn’t impressive, and nobody was willing to give you a chance. After experiencing a taste of life as an NFL starter, you lost the one coach who believed in you and the starting job. After settling in as the future of the franchise, you were blindsided by a trade, left to wonder why you weren’t good enough for the organization. You failed to right the decade-long ship of losing in the Rams organization, and you failed as a starting quarterback for a second time. You were stripped of all confidence and lost your love for the game. You nearly quit football while fully healthy at the age of 26.

But without all of that, the feeling of hopelessness, that everything you touch crumbles to dust, that everyone else is enjoying the glory while you can’t seem to catch a break; you wouldn’t be the player or the person that you are today.

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To me, this concept is difficult to grasp in the moment, but when I reflect in retrospect, every moment of failure, when it felt like I lost everything meaningful and had nothing to give, those moments built the foundation for the growth of my character and shaped the person I am today.

From the time I turned 18 years old, life has been an unpredictable roller coaster. I watched friends attend top-tier, prestigious universities and prance across the red carpet to dream jobs right out of college. Find love and happiness in successful relationships. Establish a foundation, a level of comfort and stability.

Now 23, I’m freshly transplanted from the comforts of Philadelphia, into a new state, hundreds of miles from home, after taking a leap of faith in a career ridden with instability, sacrifice, lack of comfort, and emotional distress.

But what I’ve learned from you is that, without that leap of faith, without putting yourself in a situation where failure is the likely outcome, you will never achieve your full potential. You just have to believe in where life’s guiding you, and that everything happens for a purpose.

And when I look back at the far from typical path I chose to travel, far removed from the clueless 18-year-old kid at high school graduation, I recognize that the risks I took, and the subsequent moments of failure and despair, formulated the traits and characteristics I now consider my strongest and shaped me into a well-rounded human being with an appreciation for everything life throws at me.

Understand the Importance of Resilience

"“It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you get hit and keep going”–Jason Kelce after the Super Bowl."

Failure is important, but resilience through failure is how we survive. The “keep kicking back” mentality when the walls are closing in. You displayed resilience your entire career. Instead of quitting football after Michigan State broke you down, you transferred to Arizona as a walk-on, eventually earning your scholarship. When you threw a duck 25 yards short of your receiver in the lone pre-draft workout with the Eagles’ QB’s coach Doug Pederson in 2012, you demanded another shot and placed it in the receivers breadbasket 50 yards downfield.

When Jeff Fisher belittled you in the quarterback’s room, sent you on a downward spiral that culminated in a prayer on your front porch, having sent Andy Reid your “official retirement” text, you persevered. You overcame your loss of identity as a player and a person, found the purpose within your failure, swallowed your pride and embraced your new role as a backup. Instead of hopping off your board, you battled through the trough and rode it all the way to the peak, where only 32 other starting quarterbacks have ever surfed.

When I look back at my own life journey, I see some parallel to you, but more so, I see the very moments when I determined I would not succumb to failure.

My first semester of college, I experienced more failure and misery than I had in 18 years prior. I chose a dreadfully wrong school and was “living out the dream” of playing college baseball, though I was far from living the dream. My friends were all spread throughout the country at different schools, and I spent most nights alone in my room, much like you in your truck at Michigan State, scrolling through images of their journeys.

But instead of laying down and accepting this as life for the next four years, I kept kicking. I formed a small group of college friends to keep me afloat the remainder of that semester and transferred, the following semester, to the place where I was meant to be. And, in retrospect, those lonesome nights inside my dorm bestowed me with a greater appreciation for my friends and ultimately made me a better friend.

And just because one transition may bring you happiness doesn’t mean you’ve defeated failure. In fact, it is guaranteed to resurface. Throughout life, there are so many ups and downs. Just when you feel you’ve escaped one sticky situation, another presents itself. It did over those four years for me, and it continues to do so today. I like to think, at 23, I’m still relatively young, and with that in mind, I have absolutely no idea why life has led me down here, or where I’m going, but I have trust that I will come out of it stronger.

Philadelphia is overflowing with individuals who have no idea where they’re going or are unhappy with what they’re doing. For many, the Eagles are their identity, and Sundays are their safe haven. You spoke to a city that needed to hear your message the most. I hope that what many others take away from your time here, like myself, is not simply an extraordinary story of a backup winning the Super Bowl, but your words. They may not be happy with their current situation in life, where it’s been or where it’s going. But at some point, every single person on this earth has felt the same way; whether it be a Hollywood actor, a CEO, a professional football player, or an everyday citizen in the City of Brotherly Love.

So we just need to live in the moment and understand that, there is a reason we are struggling, and we have to trust that it will present itself in due time.

We Define our Own Legacy; Numbers Don’t

Your failures led you to question your identity. All your life, you were known as a football player. To boot, you were a football player who was deemed “unsuccessful” due to your previous two seasons in the NFL. So when you began to struggle, you thought “Am I not good enough?”. When staring down the barrel of your football career, you were left to wonder “without football, who am I?”.

But through introspection and your faith, you determined you were on this earth to do more than just play football. You wanted your legacy to be as a great father, a great husband and a great person. Your goal was to make the people around you the best that they could be. When looking past your struggles on the field, you’ve succeeded in your self-defined purpose dating back to your first stint as an Eagle.

Off the field, you were there every step of the way for your then-girlfriend, now-wife as a bizarre mystery illness siphoned every last drop of energy from her once Division-1 athletically strong body, through a string of misdiagnosis, doctor after doctor. On the field, you thrived in a strong locker room and won games, no matter what the stat sheet read.

Once in St. Louis, you continued to be a tremendous husband, son, grandson, brother-in-law, and teammate. You contributed to an atmosphere in Kansas City where players competing for the same position on the field held a weekly dinner with their wives, spent Thanksgiving together. Upon your return to Philly, you thrived off of being a father to your daughter, a husband to your wife, and a mentor to a young star quarterback. You earned the love and respect of your teammates by showing faith in them, and when you were tossed into a high stakes environment, they picked you up and had your back while you shook off the rust and fell into a rhythm.

Greatness is often defined, or supported, by numbers and statistical data. That’s why it was all, but certain Tom Brady would prevail victorious in Super Bowl LII. Because the numbers said so. But you showed that your legacy and level of greatness is whatever you define it as. You said it best, “you can’t figure out a player by their statistics”. Your stats may not be at the top of the chart, but you built meaningful relationships with your teammates, you brought the best out of everyone you surrounded, and you gifted the feeling of pride and joy to generation upon generation of Eagles fans, to an entire city.

Off the field, you have the unending love of your wife, your child and your family. There is no statistical category or number to calculate their value.

Again, this message hits close to home for me. Upon transferring into Temple, I dedicated my time in school towards a career path I was passionate about but presented a less-than-stellar financial payout post-graduation. Every single moment spent outside of school, I dedicated towards legitimately pursuing my lifelong dream of touring the country as a musician.

While many were enjoying the true “college experience”, I was driving back and forth to the Lehigh Valley every weekend to work, so I would have enough money to invest in my dream. Over the summers, while most of my peers were paving the walkway for their futures by landing well-paying internships and beefing up their resume, I was travelling the country in a fifteen passenger van with no air conditioning, playing shows in cities hundreds of miles from home, most nights to relatively sparse crowds of strangers, some nights to only the bartender, and for little to sometimes no compensation. Sounds miserable, right? Not so.

I couldn’t have been happier. I was putting my heart and soul into something that was so meaningful to me. I thrived in life on the road and, often, my failures came when I wasn’t sweating it out in the van through 95-percent humidity and 100-degree weather, with the windows shut so pouring rain wouldn’t seep in while we so desperately attempted to avoid overheating.

I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in Walmart parking lots, surviving off Lunchables and the dollar menu, and driving thirteen hours through the invigorating scenery of Midwest cornfields. And there was no greater satisfaction than walking onto a stage each and every night, unleashing 120-percent of the energy I had to give into every performance, whether there were one hundred people watching or one. I couldn’t put a price tag on the memories I was creating.

When people ask how I could sacrifice my future by neglecting to take an internship, I argue, “How could I sacrifice the skills I learned in my experiences, the personal accomplishments I achieved, the pure satisfaction that I felt in pursuing something that I genuinely loved every second of the day, for an internship?”.

I didn’t blow up. I didn’t release a hit. By music industry standards, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of success. But I lived out my dream. I toured the country playing music.

I produced meaningful music.

I didn’t let the constant reminder of what “normal life” was supposed to sway my dedication or alter my mentality. And my friends who were living that normal life, they supported my efforts more than anyone else. They understood that this was how I measured my success, by the quality of life and the pursuit of my dreams, and their support was enough to always keep me going.

When it came time to graduate college, I chose to hang up the touring shoes and pursue a career in my field of study. When I was handed the offer of solid financial stability and consistent hours at an office job five minutes from my home, in a last-minute switch, I opted to accept a job with a significantly lower level of financial stability, long and often unpredictable hours, in a strange city 500 miles from home. Why? Because it was the challenge I needed in the industry the I thrived in.

So numbers don’t define my legacy. A paycheck doesn’t define my worth. I do. And you defined your legacy. And I hope Philadelphians have learned that they define their legacy. One’s legacy, one’s worth, one’s success, cannot be determined by numbers. Unless they choose to view it that way, but that is their choice.

To me, your legacy and success is based off what you want. If it’s finding purpose and meaning in a career, hobby or activity; if it’s forming a family and living your best life of joy and happiness in their presence; if it’s taking pride in being the best person you can be and contributing to society in a positive, kind-hearted manner; the numbers don’t matter.

The dictionary will tell you otherwise, defining a legacy as a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. But to me, as long as you have a roof over your head, enough food to survive, and your heart is in the right place, you are living your own legacy.

The Power of Team Culture

When you went to the Rams, you described the locker room as “a different atmosphere”. One where losing was normal, and the camaraderie and trust were lacking. On the field, in recent years, the results had been lacking. You, as the quarterback, were expected to fix that. But you couldn’t.

But with the Eagles, upon success measured in both wins and impressive stat lines at the highest level of pressure, you could. And following last year’s success and the magical run into the playoffs this season, you were asked “How were you able to do it? How did you come up with the performances to lead this team?”. The message you sent resonated with me.

It wasn’t about you, the quarterback. It was about the team. It was about the atmosphere. You talked to your teammates. You got to know the offensive line, the backs, the receivers, the defense, the special teams, and the coaches. You emphasized that it wasn’t about wins and losses, it was about building relationships. It was about genuinely caring for your teammates. No man was above anyone else. That humility, where everyone is as important as the person next to them, is what drove the success of this team.

You opened up and were honest with each and every player, and formed a legitimate trust. Not the type where you say “I trust you”, but deep down you hold your breath. No. This was utter trust that the defense would make a stop when the team needed it most. That the special teams would make a play to change the game. And it reciprocated with their trust and belief that you would make the throws in clutch moments.

Instead of standing on a pedestal, basking in the glory of being the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl champion team, you put your ego aside, returned to your role as the backup quarterback, and supported Carson wholeheartedly. You built chemistry in the quarterback’s room which primed whoever stepped under center to succeed.

The genuine support of your fellow position players is a characteristic you take pride in. Understanding that the best player will play and, while never losing that competitive edge and desire to be the best player, supporting and rooting for the success of your teammate if you don’t get the opportunity to be on the field.

You spoke about this characteristic in kids and the younger generation. That the team aspect in sports has deteriorated, and that they root for fellow position players on their own team to fail. Out of spite and out of jealousy. Instead of supporting their friend’s success and working harder to better themselves, they wish for the failure of a teammate. They can’t muster up the strength to set their egos aside.

This can relate to nearly any aspect of life. Out of jealousy and greed, people root for co-workers to fail often. Instead of working harder to increase your abilities and ensure job security or work up the ladder, they hope that others fail so they can reap the benefits. No company can successfully run that way. And karma will come back to get you.

Today, around the world, it often feels as if we are constantly competing against one another. And not in the form of good spirited, healthy competition. We take sides and refuse to open our ears, and minds, long enough to listen to the “other side’s” message.

We don’t genuinely care for our fellow human beings. We certainly don’t have each other’s back. Put our egos aside? Laughable. We thrive off of our ego. We are egotistical maniacs. We are so consumed with building up our egos that we only surround ourselves with individuals who will feed into it. And we belittle and scoff at anyone who does not. We’ve created a rift where there is no middle ground. In any situation. Pick a side. We live in a world of sides, a world of groups, a world of cults. But we never come together as a team.

For cripes sake, we are in the midst of a war between two sides of Eagles fans. That’s not what you would want nor what you preached in your time here, Nick. We need to come together, as Eagles fans, as Philadelphians, and society as a whole, and listen to one another. Truly get to know one another and build a trust and faith. Genuinely care about one another. Right now, we are the underdogs, fighting to keep the ship afloat. And you, along with every player and coach on the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles, blessed us with the blueprint on how to do just that.

The Immense Power and Potential of Human Weakness

This is the message that brings it all together. Failure and resilience. The courage to share your failures in hopes of encouraging another’s belief in resilience. When everyone asks “What is Nick Foles’ magic power?”, it’s weakness.

You left Philadelphia in 2015 a great quarterback but lacking the confidence. You returned as a wise and gracious individual, at peace with everything that life tossed your way. You learned to truly live in the moment, to not focus on the past or the future. But your past, your weaknesses, opened you to this mindset.

The sum of all your past failures resulted in your success. On the field, you were able to assess your strengths as a quarterback, let go and block out all of the pressure, and believe that your teammates would pick you up if you fell.

Off the field, it was all about genuine relationships. With your teammates, your coaches, your friends, and your family. You opened up to everyone about your failures, shared your times of struggle, and let us all know that it is okay to be weak, it is okay to be vulnerable, it is okay to not be okay.

When we feel weak or helpless as humans, we often feel self-conscious, embarrassed, and it is in our nature to repress it, to try and hide it. We put on a fake smile. We don’t assess the issues head-on. We beat around the bush; we bite our tongue.

What I’ve learned from you, Nick, is the only way to overcome my weaknesses and convert them into strengths is to open up. To talk about it. To be honest. Odds are, someone else is struggling through the very same weakness. And once that weakness converts into a strength, I can use the wisdom through the experiences to help strengthen those around me.

That’s how you led this team to a Super Bowl. You opened up about your weaknesses. In doing so, you gained the trust and respect of your teammates, and you gave them strength.

So, my final takeaway is just that. I don’t need to be afraid or feel ashamed of my weaknesses. I don’t need to be embarrassed by my failures. Someone out there is always willing to listen and to genuinely care about me. About you. Let it out, be honest, be genuine, and give yourself the strength to overcome any obstacle.

Sports, especially the Eagles, means so much more than just “sports” to this city. When you’re in town, you feel the aura of the Birds. It’s a special bond we share with generations of our family, with our best friends and our brothers.

This team is so much more than just a team to me. It’s a part of who I am. I live and breathe the Philadelphia Eagles; I bleed green. This past season was especially meaningful to me. It was a way for me to feel at home when it felt I could be any further from there.

And, when you led us on the magical run, to the unthinkable rematch in the Superdome, there was no chance in hell that I wasn’t going to drive 13 hours through the night from Greensboro, NC to the Big Easy to experience the power of St. Nick one last time in the flesh. Win or lose; I knew this might be the last look that I would get of Number 9 in Midnight Green.

I’ve spent the past few weeks feeling more depressed than usual over a loss. Even in the playoffs, it’s usually more of anger or disappointment. This one has the feeling of a breakup when everything is still clicking, simply because, in the long run, you know it will be better off for both parties. It’s the feeling of moving on from what feels like the pinnacle, the best times of your life, but knowing deep down that the best is yet to come. It’s the feeling of saying goodbye to someone who has impacted your life in a way you never thought possible.

As I stood in Section 609, Row 22, Seat 12 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome, my feet were glued to the ground, my hands locked to my head, my eyes locked on the field. The clock read 0:00, the Saints faithful were celebrating, and both teams gathered in the middle of the turf to shake hands. I don’t want to say that it felt like I was floating, for that would make it seem as if I were in a jubilant state of mind, but it didn’t seem real, it felt like a dream, a nightmare.

But as I watched you jog off the field and into the tunnel one last time, I was sent back to a steamy mid-July early morning in 2012, soupy and soggy, slammed against a temporary fence, drowning in a sea of midnight green around the practice fields at Lehigh University. Where a tall and lanky quarterback on the second team catches my eye. Number 9. Foles.

A letter doesn’t do it justice. I still feel that you deserve so much more. We let you down the first time around; you suffered through scrutiny and hardship, you came back and brought home the first Lombardi, concluded decades of suffering, and brought an immeasurable state of joy and exuberance to an entire city. No words can do that justice.

Next. Senior Bowl only 7-Round 2019 mock draft. dark

But if I’ve learned anything from you, Nick Foles the person, a simple and genuine thank you is more than enough.