When the Eagles’ brain trust trekked to North Dakota for what in hindsight was the stamp on the team’s trade to No. 2, they took Carson Wentz out to dinner at Mezaluna, a restaurant about as swanky as they come in Fargo.
Howie Roseman, who was accompanied by Jeffrey Lurie, Doug Pederson and Frank Reich on that journey to the north, had to step outside the restaurant before being seated. On his way back in, he overheard a conversation between the manager and the hostess. The two were fawning over Wentz, and how humble and appreciative he always was.
At least, that’s the way Roseman told the story Thursday evening after the Eagles selected Wentz with the second pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Wentz, 23, is immediately the face of the Eagles’ future, the man they swapped plenty of assets to woo from Bismarck to Philadelphia with the hopes of a Lombardi trophy and stability at the quarterback position for the first time since the Donovan McNabb era.
"His presence when he walks in the room, when he talks to you not only about football but about life, and then when you watch him interact with people," Roseman said Thursday. "That’s just the kind of kid he is, and we’re just excited for all our fans and our team to see why we brought him here."
Roseman and Pederson both spoke at length on Thursday, singing praises of Wentz’s intangibles.
"He’s coming from a winning tradition, a winning program at North Dakota State," Pederson said. "He’s a winner himself. You’ve got to love the intangibles about him, just when you get a chance to meet him in the building, one-on-one, his demeanor, his aggressiveness, his willingness, to learn, sharp kid. He was a really was a very attractive pick for us."
Roseman and Pederson both confirmed that Wentz was atop their draft board all along, and after meeting with him multiple times and being wowed as early as the Senior Bowl, they made the moves necessary to snag him.
"He’s got rare physical skills," Roseman said. "I mean, the athletic ability, the throwing arm, the body type, and he’s someone that can just be kind of molded into whatever you want. When you have the coaches that we have, and the support system that we have, it’s exciting. One player can change your team. For us, we know how important that is, that position. So investing in that position was a no-brainer."
Wentz called later in the evening on a conference call from Chicago, and sounded just as excited about the coaching staff the Eagles have in place. With Pederson and Reich, both former quarterbacks, as well as quarterback whisperer John DeFilippo, Wentz said he’s thrilled to learn under this staff.
Wentz said he was especially enamored of Pederson.
"He’s an awesome guy," Wentz said of his new coach. "I just thought we hit it off great. He knows the game. There’s a number of guys in [the Eagles’] organization, and that coaching staff, that really understand the quarterback position. I think it’ll be a great group of guys to go in there and learn from."
When he received the call Thursday night, he spoke to each member of the dinner party crew, and DeFilippo — or, as Wentz called him already, Coach Flip.
"He’s so cool, calm and collected that he was very just … calm and cool on the phone," Pederson said. "It was exciting to talk to him, he was thrilled to death, and he's looking forward to getting here."
Pederson was the Sam Bradford to Donovan McNabb’s Carson Wentz in 1999, the last time the Eagles selected a quarterback in the first round, also at No. 2 overall.
When asked if he would try to replicate what worked with McNabb and himself, Pederson said he felt no need to rush the young passer. It’ll work itself out in time.
"There’s really no need [to rush Wentz]," Pederson said. "You’ve got Sam Bradford, you’ve got Chase Daniel — you’ve got two different guys that can, for one, teach, especially with Chase. That’s the reason I brought him here, is the fact that he understands and knows the offense that I’m implementing. He’s really going to be the go-between, helping Sam and Carson, now, in their roles. So it’s going to be a great dynamic, and it’s going to be fun to watch."