PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ten years after Drew Brees led Westlake High School to the Texas state championship, Nick Foles came along and broke many of his passing records but couldn’t deliver another title for the Austin-based school.
The two quarterbacks go head-to-head for the first time in the NFL with more at stake when Brees and the New Orleans Saints (11-5) visit Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) in an NFC wild-card playoff game Saturday night.
“Drew is a tremendous player. He’s a guy that I’ve looked up to,” Foles said. “He’s a great role model for fellow players, kids and adults. What he does in the community, what he’s done for Louisiana and across the nation, he does a great job of being a good person, helping people in need. He’s a guy I’ve watched on film and just watched what he’s done and I have a lot of respect for him as a player and a person. I know Westlake is really proud.
“It’s a great place to go to school, great place to grow up.”
Brees watched Foles play once in high school when he returned in 2006 for the 10-year reunion of the Chapparals’ 1996 championship team. Foles led Westlake to the state championship game that year, only to lose to Southlake Carroll 43-29.
The players hadn’t met each other until the Eagles played at New Orleans last year. Foles was Michael Vick’s backup then.
“I heard a lot about him when he was at Westlake, but there was a 10-year age difference,” Brees said. “I followed his career. He has been pretty impressive for such a young player, mature beyond his years. I wouldn’t say that I am all that surprised because he is a Westlake guy. He has played great.”
Brees went to Purdue after Westlake, was drafted by San Diego and ended up in New Orleans, where he’s established himself as one of the NFL’s all-time best quarterbacks. Brees is an eight-time Pro Bowl pick who just threw for 5,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. No other QB has ever done it more than once.
Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in February 2010. He’ll be trying to help them win their first playoff game on the road in six tries when they meet the Eagles.
“When he’s out there, he’s a warrior,” Foles said. “There aren’t many guys who can make the throws that he makes. He has great intensity and he’s an underrated athlete. I’ve seen pictures of him dunking on goalposts and certain things. You can just see his leadership, and I’ve always looked up to him as a leader. I think he’s a great guy and a great quarterback, but on and off the field he’s the same guy, and I respect that about him.”
Foles started six games as a rookie last year for a 4-12 team. He began this season as a backup, but took over after Vick was injured and had a remarkable year. He was 8-2 as a starter, helping the Eagles rebound from a 1-3 start to win the NFC East. Foles led the NFL with the third-highest passer rating (119.2) in league history, threw 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
“It is amazing,” Brees said. “It’s extremely impressive. Those are pretty unprecedented numbers, especially for a guy who’s in his first year as a starter. I’m very happy for his success, obviously not just for the fact we’re from the same high school and I kind of know the road he’s traveled, but he seems like a tremendous young man. It’s been fun to watch his success.”
Of course, Brees will be facing Philadelphia’s defense and vice versa. The Eagles allowed the most yards passing in the NFL this season. Meanwhile, the Saints gave up the second-fewest yards passing.
Stats won’t matter much now, though. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis both have tough tasks trying to slow two of the league’s most prolific offenses.
“They’re a talented group,” Foles said of the Saints’ underrated defense. “They’re going to mix it up with their coverages. They’re going to try to put pressure on you at times and they’re going to try to get to you. I think the key to that is that we have to recognize as a team when they’re trying to put pressure on.”
Brees ignores Philadelphia’s ugly numbers.
“They’re great at taking the ball away,” he said. “They’re great at getting pressure on you. They fly around and make all kinds of plays. They have all kinds of playmakers at the line of scrimmage, at the linebacker position and in the secondary. I really just look at this last half of the season and they have played tremendous.”
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