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The Night The Eagles Drafted Carson Wentz

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

I’ve been covering the Eagles since 1985, first for a newspaper in West Chester (thank you, Daily Local News) and then as the Editor of Eagles Digest and, since 1987, as a member of the organization. I’ve done a lot of things, experienced just about everything and have thoroughly enjoyed it all, with the exception of not having a Super Bowl win to celebrate.

But until this past spring, I had never been in the draft room during the draft. So when I was invited in late April, it was a thrill. It was a special moment and I understood the implication: The Eagles in the midst of franchise-altering moves – hiring Doug Pederson as head coach, re-arranging the front office, and signing a handful of players to long-term contracts – were about to make their first pick in the draft on a quarterback.

It was going to be either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, and the feeling inside the NovaCare Complex in the days leading up to the first round of the draft was that it would be Wentz, that the Rams really loved Goff and that they felt that a California kid would fit into the culture of football in Los Angeles better than a quarterback who had barely been out of the state of North Dakota for most of his life. There was also the hope that Wentz would be the one on the board with the second overall pick, because the Eagles feel in love with him – hook, line and sinker – as they courted him in the months prior.

A conversation I had with offensive coordinator Frank Reich popped into my head before the draft that night. Reich had just returned from a workout with Wentz that included a strict classroom session and Reich was drooling. Almost, seriously, literally drooling. He raved about Wentz and his mental acumen and about Wentz’ maturity and love of the game. It seemed clear to me that the Eagles, while they liked both quarterbacks and felt both had “franchise” ability, favored Wentz.

On draft night, I stood in the back of the room and observed. The energy level was tremendous. The Los Angeles Rams were on the clock and there was a wave of nervous tension in the room, which was filled with Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and his personnel department, all the coaches and some other key Eagles staff people. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium in Chicago and announced that the Rams had, indeed, taken Goff, and the room went crazy. High fives all around. Ear-to-ear smiles.

Roseman called for quiet and proceeded to congratulate everyone in the room for a job well done. It was, clearly a huge moment for the organization. Roseman then called Wentz on the phone and asked him, “Are you ready to be an Eagle?”

A few moments later, with all eyes on the televisions in the room, Commissioner Goodell announced that “with the second pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles select Carson Wentz, quarterback, North Dakota State.”

And a franchise was changed.

As we revel in the debut performance from Wentz in Sunday’s win over Cleveland and listen to the complimentary words of his outing and of his “intelligence” and “maturity” and his overall “natural skills,” I am reminded of what the Eagles said the night they drafted him.

"I'm very excited," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said that night. "To get a player like Carson, I just think he fits with Doug's offense, with this organization. I think this is the right place for him to grow. He brings the kinds of qualities, not just as a quarterback, but as a player, that you really look for. And that really for us, as a coaching staff and as an organization, starts with toughness, physical and mental toughness.

"You really put him through the grinder and you test him in a lot of ways. To say that he was off the charts would be an understatement really. He did such a great job when we watched the film with him and when we would test him with plays and concepts, give him homework and kind of test him on it. It was really quite impressive."

I spoke to Lurie that night just moments after the pick was made, and he beamed. Really, truly beamed. Lurie had been part of the process of spending time with Wentz, getting to know all about him, finding out how he was wired.

And on that Round 1 draft night, Lurie was thrilled to have Wentz as his own.

“Incredibly impressive 23-year-old,” Lurie said just outside the draft room at the NovaCare Complex. “Incredibly impressive. Very comfortable in his own skin. Ultracompetitive. Terrific leader. Everyone you talked to just loved playing with this guy because all he wants to do is win, and win big in everything he does, whether it’s classes, football, everything. He has an infectious personality, one that is outgoing and open to everybody.

“But the real thing was the competitive toughness. When you watch the film, it’s a big-time quarterback in a small-school program. They won every National Championship, but you still have to take that leap. They ran a pro-style offense and Carson is very bright. I think he will love playing in Philly. We’ve got the best fans in the world and I think he will love playing here and I think everyone will love him.”

In early August, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo talked about Wentz, who had yet to even play in a preseason game. He raved.

“He’s been awesome. He’s been great. He brings a lot of energy and juice to practice every day whether he has a good day or whether he has a bad day,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said in early August. “That’s a big thing that is underrated when you talk about quarterbacks in the National Football League. You want guys who are the same every day, who want to get better and who learn from their mistakes.

“Carson is not what we call a ‘repeat offender,’ meaning, he very rarely makes the same mistake twice. The thing that has been very pleasant to see with Carson is his ability to retain information from the meeting room to the field. That’s a very, very positive trait that a lot of quarterbacks don’t have. He’s a very bright person not only in football, but outside of the building and that helps him retain and process all of the information we give him.”

The point of this? The Eagles have loved Wentz for a long, long time. They think he has a huge upside. I, personally, think Wentz is the stud of studs. I’ve seen ‘em all here since 1985, and Wentz has a chance to better than Jaws and better than Randall and better than Donovan and better than, well, all of them. The kid is a football player. He isn’t going to celebrity birthday parties. He isn’t wearing gold-tipped shoelaces. He isn’t listening to critics. He’s isn’t into the fame. He isn’t going to ever be a problem off the field.

Athletically, he’s got it all at 6 feet 5, 243 or whatever pounds he’ll be in a couple of years. Wentz has a chance to be special, and that’s something the fans saw on Sunday and something the Eagles believed when they invested so much time in him prior to the draft in late April.

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