Foles learned from his mistakes early on

ASSOCIATED PRESS Nick Foles led Westlake High to the state championship game in 2006 and threw for 299 yards.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Nick Foles led Westlake High to the state championship game in 2006 and threw for 299 yards.
Posted: September 05, 2014

THE STARTING varsity quarterback at Westlake High in Austin, Texas, from 2005-06 could serve as another in a long line of case studies exemplifying the shortcomings of high school football recruiting rankings.

Just take a glance at the list of Class of 2007 quarterbacks that, a recruiting website, regarded higher than the 12th-grade version of Nick Foles, a consensus three-star prospect.

That year's top two QB recruits are now NFL backups the Eagles faced this preseason in the Bears' Jimmy Clausen and the Patriots' Ryan Mallett (who is now with the Texans). Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore's No. 2 to Joe Flacco, was ranked fourth in a class that also included the likes of college starters turned undrafted free agents like John Brantley and Aaron Corp, standout college receiver (and former Eagles draft pick) Marvin McNutt and G.J. Kinne, who is on the Eagles' practice squad.

Scroll down past those names and a litany of others even avid college football fans wouldn't remember, and click over to the next page of results. All the way down at No. 52, there is Foles. Seven years later, there's only one higher-rated QB from his high school class who has experienced more success than him, and his name is Cam Newton.

You get the gist.

Count Rick Cantu, a sports writer who covered Foles' high school career for the Austin American-Statesman, as someone who never understood the lack of recruiting buzz.

"When you look at him, he's the prototype quarterback," Cantu said. "I think so many people are in love with the read-option. [Foles] kind of burst onto the scene a little bit after Vince Young did [at Texas] and in these parts they all kind of fell in love with the way Vince Young runs with the football."

Foles certainly didn't - and still doesn't - run like Young, but early traces of the player who last season threw for the historic ratio of 27 touchdowns to two interceptions can be found in his playing days at Westlake High. There, as a senior, he completed 187 of 280 pass attempts and his 33 touchdown passes far outweighed his four interceptions.

"He's a learner. He learns from his mistakes," said Derek Long, Foles' coach at Westlake. "He's the type of guy that he's going to - I don't know how you can improve on last year in the pros for him - but I mean he's going to make better decisions each year or each game as he goes along.

"His junior year [of high school], he had a great year but he made some mistakes. He threw some bad passes. I mean, he's human. But his senior year he didn't make many. I think that's that same progression that you kind of see at all levels that he's been at so far. I think he's a real student of the game."

As you surely heard last winter in the week leading to last year's first-round playoff loss to the Saints, Foles in his 2 years as Westlake's starter broke Drew Brees' school records for career passing yards (5,658) and touchdowns (56). He also holds the school's single-game records for individual offense (379) and passing yards (383).

Foles' high school statistics could've been even better, Cantu said, but Westlake often pulled him from games in which it had built considerable first-half leads. It's a fact that Cantu said Foles' father, Larry, made sure to remind the reporter when it came time for the American-Statesman to select its annual All-Central Texas football team. Foles, who led Westlake to the 2006 Class 5A, Division I title game, was the newspaper's player of the year that season, standing out among a pool of about 75 high school teams within about a 50-mile radius of Austin.

"He was always an accurate passer," Cantu said. "He was a smart QB. He knew when to throw it away. He knew when to take a sack. He was unflappable."

Foles was a two-sport athlete in high school, utilizing his height on the basketball court, where as a freshman called up to varsity for the playoffs, he first displayed his poise in pressure-filled situations. He was a pretty good player, too, and in 3 years of hoops, he was twice the team's MVP.

But Foles' true calling obviously came on the gridiron, where he excelled in Westlake's old-school, pro-style offense. Perhaps forgotten is he spent his entire senior season committed to Arizona State, even after the coach he committed to, current Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, was fired after the season. But just days before national signing day, after new coach Dennis Erickson pursued a third quarterback in that year's senior class, Foles de-committed, later ending up at Michigan State, from where he eventually transferred to Arizona.

Just a few weeks before signing day, Foles went under the knife in Birmingham, Ala. As it turned out, he played the last 12 games of his prep career with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, the extent of which was not known until after the season.

Surgery was performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who for years has operated on seemingly every big-time athlete. For a story in the American-Statesman published a few weeks later, Andrews offered a prediction on Foles now worth revisiting.

"I think this kid is going to make me look pretty good," Andrews told the newspaper. "I'm sure he'll be a big-time college player, and maybe we'll see him on Sundays someday."

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