Foles Takes Cues From Brees
By Kevin Zimmerman
Nick Foles' football resume reads as if life's a breeze, and the quarterback's long blond mop of hair fits with his calm and cool demeanor.
For one, there are his eye-popping numbers -- 6,487 passing yards for 45 touchdowns so far as an Arizona Wildcat. In high school, Foles racked up 5,658 yards and 56 touchdowns in his career, both records that broke the Westlake High School marks set by current New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Then there is Foles' deeper connection to Brees, a fellow Austin, Texas, native.
"He's read Drew's book," Arizona quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo said of Foles. "I got a chance to spend some time with [Brees] when I was in New Orleans [as Louisiana Tech's offensive coordinator]. There's a lot of similarities, and I think that's where Nick has really elevated his game from a intensity standpoint - how he plays, how he practices every day."
Brees' book "Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity," is the NFL quarterback's account of overcoming injury and critical NFL scouts to become a Super Bowl champion. His own struggle aligned with the city of New Orleans' recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
"Drew, he's a guy I've looked up to since I was a little kid, just growing up in the same area," Foles said. "Really, the book is just about being a leader, facing adversity, and no matter what, believing in yourself."
The lessons are applicable to Foles' maturation from his junior to senior year. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback ended 2010 with a three-interception performance at the Valero Alamo Bowl, a 36-10 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
He's rebounded in 2011 with 810 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions through two games against Northern Arizona and Oklahoma State. Although the latter came in a 37-14 loss last week, Foles said it's a matter of taking games one at a time. That comes with forming a common goal for a team that last year lost its final five games of the season.
"That's the key to this year," Foles said. "We've got to believe in each other. If you have faith in each other, you go out and do the right things."
This Saturday, Foles will attempt to end Arizona's six-game losing streak to FBS opponents that goes back to Oct. 30, 2010.
He'll see a familiar face on the opposing team. Foles and Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, a sure-fire first round NFL Draft pick, have formed a relationship while making a name for themselves in the conference of quarterbacks. During the offseason, the two recently spent time with more than 30 other Division I quarterbacks at the Manning Passing Academy.
"Just spending time with guys like that, that's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Foles said. "It's really just like kicking it with your buddies. We talked a little bit about football, but it's more about daily life.
"[The relationship between Andrew and I] has grown throughout the years," he added. "It's fun. It's even more fun when you get to play against them. It makes you even more competitive."
Foles has embraced his role as a leader for this year's Arizona team. He committed to a new diet in the offseason -- he discovered he had a food allergy to some dairy products -- and has been charged with holding his teammates more accountable.
"Nick has just grown in a lot of different ways - he's stronger, he's changed his body a lot. He's much more confident, a better leader," Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said.
"He's just become a very complete player and has really embraced the role of taking the team and putting it on his back," Stoops added. "He does everything he can to put us in a positive position."'
As Foles' roommate after the quarterback arrived as a Michigan State transfer his sophomore year, receiver David Douglas has seen Foles' development first-hand.
"Being three years in the program, a three-year star, guys are naturally going to look up to him," Douglas said, "but he's really just stepped into that role of being a leader, a more vocal guy. The guys on the team look up to him. He prepares himself and he does the things right like a leader should do and everyone follows in his footsteps."
Scelfo, meanwhile, can't say what one trait makes a quarterback like Foles so successful. The coach from Abbeville, La., has seen his fair share of NFL-level quarterbacks. During his eight-year career at Tulane, Scelfo coached first-round NFL quarterback picks Patrick Ramsey and J.P. Losman, along with second-round pick Shaun King.
"The one thing that Nick has in common with those guys? They're the hardest working guys on the team," Scelfo said. "There's really nothing that pulls everything together except the fact that they're the hardest working guys on the team."
Calm and collected, Foles has always been known for his cool nature. But in the offseason, he did more than working on his vocal leadership and holding his teammates accountable. In being the leader, he knows he's expected to act the part.
He'll often stay after practice to throw the ball with receivers looking for extra repetitions. Other times, he'll be the last to leave the Jimenez Practice Facility because he's tossing the football around with the young sons and daughters of the Arizona coaching staff.
"I think [the maturity] just has to do with me getting older," Foles said. "The quarterback is the face of the franchise. They're the one that is selling all the jerseys, doing all those things. He's got to look the part, he's got to act the part. I just be myself."
Does that mean away with the surfer scruff?
"I'm still growing the hair out a little bit," Foles joked. "I always cut it a little bit before the season. Naturally, [I'm] just trying to keep a cleaner look.
"I'll still grow the beard out a little bit," he added. "I'm sure by game three you'll be thinking differently of me."
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