By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA — He never has to look for him, because he knows he’s always there somewhere, tucked in a corner of the stands, trying to look inconspicuous with his cap tugged down tight so no one recognizes him. It’s almost as if Skyler Mornhinweg can sense his father Marty’s presence each time he steps on a football field.
Sky knows his mom is there, too, because he can hear her. Lindsay Mornhinweg possesses the kind of melodic-sounding voice of a harp strumming, yet Sky can always pinpoint her distinct tone above the din on throaty Friday nights. He’s always able to spot her in the thicket of a dense crowd, sitting there with his brother and sisters.
With everything surrounding the 6-3, 200-pound St. Joseph’s Prep two-year starting quarterback, it has all led to something. Something pretty special.
The best quarterback in Philadelphia is a coach’s son who has a penchant for fourth-quarter comebacks and who has won a playoff game and led his team to a championship. Yes, he’s part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ NFL family — but it’s not new Eagles’ starter Kevin Kolb.
The best quarterback in Philadelphia is a humble, confident, selfless leader who constantly puts his teammates ahead of himself.
Skyler Mornhinweg is all of those things.
He has a cannon arm and a steady countenance under pressure that belies his age. But there’s a deeper reason why. Why Sky carries himself in a self-deprecating way. Why he’s the type where only the scoreboard numbers count. Why if you met him he’d come across as the last kid on the bench, willing to sacrifice anything just to run down the field once on special teams than be considered one the best juniors in the country, already committed to Stanford.
Meet mom and dad Mornhinweg and you find out why.
Marty and Lindsay Mornhinweg never intended for their oldest son to be a star athlete. It just worked out that way. They wanted to expose their four children (older sister Madison, who’s at Penn, Skyler, and younger siblings Molly and Bobby Cade) to sports. If they liked playing, fine. If not, that was fine, too.
Just two simple rules had to be followed: Have fun playing in trying to be the best you can be; and define yourself — never let anyone else define you.
Sometimes, though, there are unforeseeable pressures that come with certain last names. Especially one so connected and ingrained — as Mornhinweg has been the last 15 years in the NFL.
Marty Mornhinweg is the offensive coordinator for the Eagles and possesses one of the sharpest offensive minds in the game. He’s a coaching lifer whose travels have taken him everywhere from Montana, to Southeast Missouri, to Northern Arizona, Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit, and since 2003, to Philadelphia as part of Eagles’ head coach Andy Reid’s staff.
Marty’s methodical and dogged, and he speaks in a friendly Southern drawl and has a magnetic personality that seems to bring everyone around him closer, as if you knew him your whole life. He’s someone you want to pull up to a bar and have a beer with while talking football.
He’s also committed to success.
It leads to 14- to 16-hour work days at the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles’ practice facility, breaking down film, going over game plans, trying to unmask the defensive tendencies of opposing teams, playing the never-ending role of football mad scientist, because that’s what it’s like at the NFL level. It’s spilling your brains out each week cooped up in a bunker for seven months, then shading your dilated pupils with your hand when it’s over because you haven’t seen the sun since July. It’s a passion unlike any other vocation.
It’s a lifestyle choice that can be both chaotic and exhilarating, and it can take its toll on a family dynamic. But the Mornhinwegs make it work. They maintain a measured, balanced family structure with consistency. They do it by keeping a safe but watchful distance of their children. Too many times the parents of budding stars at the high school level interfere with coaches, often attempting to tell them how to coach their son or daughter.
Not the Mornhinwegs. They’re the complete opposite.
“It’s because it’s about the kids and not about the parents, and some parents lose track of that,” Marty says. “If there’s a problem, my kids should be able to talk to their coach about it — not the parents. They learn a lot by doing that. When adversity hits, it’s important for the kids to deal with it. You can’t coddle them. Children eventually grow into adulthood and when real adversity hits, they have to be able to adjust. I’m proud of all my children, and what Lindsay and I preach is looking at the big picture. It’s that simple.
“We enjoy the part of watching practices and games from afar. We have the same trials and tribulations like every other family has — but we’re a little fortunate, because of the position I’m in. But it’s not really me. I have a great woman in my life. Lindsay is the one. She’s there day in and day out. She’s the rock. If it wasn’t for her, none of us would be where we are.”
That’s the twist. Coach Mornhinweg is pictured, and quoted, and splashed all over the media. As Sky’s stature rises, he’ll be receiving more of the same. But if Team Mornhinweg has a star, it’s not Marty or Skyler. It’s Lindsay. She wants no credit for anything. She even had trepidations about talking for this story. Yet she’s the brick and mortar that keeps the Mornhinweg house upright and running. She doesn’t think of herself as the star by any means — just “a mom” doing what all mothers do, caring for her children.
She’s the one who drives the children to their various practices and games, dental appointments, camps and weekend tournaments. When Skyler was looking for a high school to attend in the Philadelphia area, it was Lindsay who took him on his visits and acted as point person.
“I actually think I have the fun job,” says Lindsay, who met Marty when he was the running backs coach at Northern Arizona and she was working her way through school at a local restaurant. “Marty is the one who sets the tone. He never, and I mean never, brings his job back home. Marty could come home after an excellent victory or a horrible loss and you wouldn’t know it. He never gets too high or too low, and that’s what we’ve tried to instill in all of our children.
“I think it’s why Skyler is the way he is. After every game, Marty tells him what he did well and what he has to work on. He talks to all of our kids after their games — and I love that. Playing sports is a privilege, not something you have to do. But sports at any level can be so emotional, so we try to incorporate a step-back approach, evaluate and see the bigger picture.”
Who’s the coach here?
Actually, Skyler benefits from having two coaches — a day-to-day life coach in Lindsay, and an in-house quarterback guru in Marty.
“I am really blessed,” says Skyler, who frequently shadows his dad at Eagles home games and during training camp. “My parents support me in everything I do. It wouldn’t matter if I were playing football or writing poetry. But football is a part of my family. There’s no denying that. My father introduced me to the game and it took off from there.
“I care about his input. He’s doing right now what I dream about doing when I’m older. I’m really lucky. Some high school athletes look up to their dads for doing this or that for them. I look up to both of my parents, because they’re strict, but fair. My father works really hard, and my mother does everything — and takes care of everyone. She does it all. If it wasn’t for either of them, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am.”
In 2009, Skyler started both ways, at safety and quarterback, leading St. Joseph’s Prep to three fourth-quarter comebacks and a 9-3 record. The Hawks reached the Philadelphia Catholic League Class AAAA (large school) championship, where they lost to eventual state champion LaSalle. The Prep underwent some serious changes since then, replacing long-tenured coach Gil Brooks with Gabe Infante and the program will undergo even more transition, with a number of key returning players transferring out.
It means increased pressure on Skyler. It means added adversity to juggle.
But Skyler won’t have to look far for support. He knows where to find it. Regardless of where they’re sitting on Friday nights.