Inside view of Eagles sensation Nick Foles

Eagles rookie sensation Nick Foles still stays in touch with Frank Scelfo (left), his QB coach at Arizona.
Eagles rookie sensation Nick Foles still stays in touch with Frank Scelfo (left), his QB coach at Arizona. (TOM DUDDLESTON JR. / UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA)
Posted: August 23, 2012

WHEN Nick Foles finished leading the Eagles to a 27-17 preseason victory over the host New England Patriots late Monday night, Foles made a phone call.

On the other end, former Arizona Wildcats quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo heard about the things Foles didn't do right, in the course of completing 18 of 28 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns, and compiling a 96.9 passer rating. Foles was pressed into service much earlier than scheduled when Michael Vick left for rib X-rays with a little more than 6 minutes remaining in the first quarter.

"He regrets throwing the interception," Scelfo was saying Tuesday. "And a couple other balls, he wished he could have followed through more on, drove 'em. I think maybe he threw behind somebody one time - I forget who it was [DeSean Jackson]."

Scelfo says Foles, who woke up Tuesday morning as the NFL's preseason passing leader, with a 118.4 passer rating, did mention some of the good stuff that happened - obliquely.

"For the most part, what he felt good about was that they opened up the playbook a bit, and he was able to grasp it," Scelfo says.

Eagles coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have been feeding the third-round rookie their West Coast offense in bite-sized chunks. Foles doesn't seem at all overwhelmed. These are preseason games, yes, but Reid acknowledged he has never had a rookie QB come in and play like this right away.

"He's harder on himself than anybody can ever be on him," Scelfo says. "He's a gym rat; he'll look at a lot of film, really tear himself down to help build himself back up."

Told that Foles is becoming a sensation with the ardent Eagles fan base, after completing 24 of 38 passes (63.2 percent) for 361 yards, four touchdowns and that one interception in two games, Scelfo says: "He's going to be uncomfortable with that, I can tell you . . . He's very unassuming."

Certainly, in the visitors' locker room at Gillette Stadium Monday night, Foles gave no hint of basking in adulation. He didn't want to talk about whether he can unseat Mike Kafka as Vick's primary backup.

"I'm not focusing on that at all. Really just going to work tomorrow, like I always do, trying to get better and help my team in any way possible," he said. "That's out of my hands."

Asked why he thought he was doing so well, Foles said it was because "I have great players around me . . . a lot of great veterans have helped me out tremendously."

Scelfo isn't surprised to see Foles flourish in a tough situation.

"He's been like that his whole life - you look back at what he's done in high school and in college, there's no reason for that all of a sudden to change," he says.

Scelfo knows Nick's father, Larry, who is described in various publications as a restaurant "magnate" and "mogul" in Austin, Texas, where Nick grew up. Larry Foles has said he started out as the manager of a Shoney's; last October, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Larry and partner Guy Villavaso had sold their eight national Eddie V's Prime Seafood restaurants and their three Wildfish Grilles for $59 million.

"Worked his way up. Smart guy," Scelfo says of Larry Foles. "Naturally knows how to figure it out; I think that's where Nick got it from."

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman has talked about how Foles' draft stock was affected by Arizona's terrible 2011 season; head coach Mike Stoops was fired after a 1-5 start. But the Eagles liked the way Foles kept picking himself up off the ground. By the end of the season, Foles had thrown 560 passes and completed a Pac-12 Conference-record 387.

"He played behind five brand-new linemen, receivers going in and out of the lineup, there were a lot of different guys he had to work in with. It was such a young offensive coaching staff - there was a lot of inexperience all around, and he held us together," says Scelfo, who says he is "taking a redshirt year" to be with his family after not being retained by new Arizona coach Rick Rodriguez.

Foles might have been around for the Eagles to nab 88th overall because he got off to a bad start at Senior Bowl week - he has a tendency to throw wild when his feet aren't set right - and then he was disappointed with his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. After the combine, in which his 5.14 40 was the worst among QBs, Foles junked the draft training setup he'd engineered with former NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien and went back to Tucson to work with Scelfo.

"I think he was way undervalued. I thought Philly did a great job getting him in the third," Scelfo says.

Over the years, he says, he has worked with Foles on footwork, balance and weight transfer.

Though the Wildcats ran a spread, Scelfo previously worked in a West Coast offense at Tulane, and he says he and Foles "spent a lot of time understanding more about defenses, which in a spread system, that's not a big part of it. He took the extra time . . . learning, deciphering, trying to figure out exactly what hurt him and how . . . He's a fast learner and a hard worker."

Scelfo says Foles has told him that he feels exceptionally comfortable with Mornhinweg and Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson, that he feels they understand him and do a good job explaining.

"Tell those Philly fans to have some patience with him," Scelfo advises. "He'll be fine."

There is one area, though, where Scelfo said he feels Foles might not be ready for the NFL.

"Might be the worst dresser I've ever met in my life," Scelfo says. "You'll never catch him in a mall by himself buying clothes, or in a fine clothing store. He doesn't care. He's unassuming. He really doesn't care. His mother [Melissa] has great fashion sense. She dresses him. But he's horrible . . . He'll appreciate me telling you that."


Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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