Foles, Brees: Proud products of Westlake, Texas

Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (Bill Haber/AP)
Saints quarterback Drew Brees. (Bill Haber/AP)
Posted: January 01, 2014

During Nick Foles' senior season at Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, there was a celebration of the 10th anniversary of Westlake's 1996 state football championship. The quarterback from the 1996 team found a sliver of time away from work to fly in for the ceremony.

His employer was the Saints. His name was Drew Brees.

Born 10 years apart in Austin, Brees and Foles grew up in the same area and are the two most storied quarterbacks from their alma mater. On Saturday night, the Westlake alums will play in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs when the Saints visit the Eagles.

"There's going to be a lot of people [in Austin] glued to their TVs this Saturday," said former Westlake coach Derek Long, who was Foles' head coach and defensive coordinator when Brees played.

In the 24 hours after the Eagles clinched a playoff bid, Long said, he heard from a number of former players enthused about two quarterbacks from the high school facing each other in the postseason.

Long, who retired in 2009 after 26 years at the school, said both quarterbacks had the "it factor" - the rare ability to raise their teammates' level of play through their personalities.

"I really did see a lot of Drew in Nick," Long said. "Obviously Nick is taller, a lot bigger. But there were so many mannerisms and characteristics that were similar. First thing, you have two guys with high integrity and outstanding character. They did things right and they expected everybody on the team to do things right."

Long also referenced their work ethic and their pocket presence. Long said there are many players who can throw the ball far or accurately, but said it's more difficult to find a quarterback who can feel pressure and find open receivers. He considered that skill a hallmark of Brees and Foles.

Both quarterbacks led their schools to the state championship game - Brees' 1996 team won the title, while Foles' 2006 squad lost. Foles broke Brees' passing records. Neither quarterback received a scholarship offer from the nearby University of Texas, which Foles said last week was his favorite team as a child. Brees went to Purdue. Foles went to Arizona after a stop at Michigan State for a season.

Brees broke into the NFL about the time Foles started playing high school football. He had already established a reputation in Austin because of what he did at Westlake and then at Purdue, where he led the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl in 34 years.

"You grow up in Westlake, you know who Drew Brees is," Foles said. "He's a role model to so many. And I've looked up to him. I'm 10 years younger than him."

It was Brees who reportedly notified renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews about Foles' shoulder injury during Foles' senior year at Westlake.

Long said students at Westlake look at Foles now the way Foles once looked at Brees. Foles, 24, remains involved in his hometown and returns as often as he can.

"Whether he was flipping hamburgers or whatever, he's the type of person you want them to grow up to be because he does things right and is a good guy," Long said.

And it's similar to way Foles and his teammates felt when Brees returned in 2006.

"I'm sure they were ogling from the sideline," Long said. "Drew set the standard."

Don't expect Foles to ogle on Saturday. He emphasized that for him, thinking about Brees is the same as thinking about Tony Romo or Kyle Orton last week - he doesn't play against the other team's quarterback. So Foles said he'll study the Saints defense, and he'll let the Eagles defense worry about Brees.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly praised Brees on Monday, comparing Brees' preparation to that of Peyton Manning. Kelly specifically referenced how Brees can read coverages and go through his progressions in the snap of the finger.

Kelly, who is in his first NFL season after 22 years coaching at the college level, is familiar with the Westlake program. But he never actively recruited one of its players, even joking that he didn't think Brees would have been interested in New Hampshire, where Kelly once coached.

Westlake will likely be a popular talking point throughout the week. Long said his rooting interest is in the quarterbacks scoring points, because Austin might be the one region where the allegiance is to both quarterbacks on Saturday.

"It is special," Foles said. "It's a lot of credit to Westlake. That's where we're from. I'm proud to be from Westlake. Great coaches, great people, and they've helped me to where I am right now."


Foles, Brees shared Texas high school coach

"I really did see a lot of Drew in Nick. ... You have two guys with high integrity and outstanding character. They did things right and they expected everybody on the team to do things right."

DEREK LONG


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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