PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles seemed to come out of nowhere this season. Drew Brees knows better.
"I wouldn't say that I'm all that surprised," Brees said of Foles' sudden success in only his second NFL season, "because he is a Westlake guy."
Westlake High School, that is, just outside Austin, Texas. It's produced any number of minor celebrities and sports heroes over the years, ranging from Olympic swimmers Josh Ilika and Scott Spann to the alleged creator of the Silk Road online drug marketplace, Ross Ulbricht.
But Saturday night, Westlake was home to only two alumni who mattered. They just happened to be the two starting quarterbacks in an NFC wild-card game between the Eagles and the Saints, won by New Orleans, 26-24, on Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal with no time remaining.
Yes, Brees and Foles attended and played for the same high school, albeit 10 years apart. A pair of Chaparrals they are, to use the team nickname, which is a type of brush (and also the name of an ABA basketball team in Dallas that eventually became the San Antonio Spurs).
How rare is that? It was only the second time in NFL history that two opposing starting quarterbacks in a playoff game were from the same school. The only other time it happened, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was in 1974, when Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers played against Joe Ferguson of the Bills. Both were from Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, La.
Mark Sanchez and Carson Palmer, who met in the 2009 playoffs, both attended Santa Margarita Catholic in California, but Sanchez transferred after his sophomore season.
"I guess you'd say it's probably pretty rare that two guys from the same high school would be starting against each other, two quarterbacks, in an NFL playoff game," Brees -- who threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions Saturday night -- told reporters this past week. "I know we're not facing each other. He's playing against our defense and I'm playing against their defense. But it's kind of interesting how this all comes together."
Foles, who threw two touchdown passes Saturday night, broke Brees' records for passing yards and touchdowns at Westlake, but he could not top Brees in one area. Brees remains the only quarterback to lead Westlake to a state title.
"You have a role model from the same area who did a lot for his team winning a state championship in 1996," Foles said. "That's something I aspired to. We played in a state championship in 2006, my senior year, and we ended up losing."
Despite their common football ancestry, the two had never met until last season, when the Saints hosted the Eagles in New Orleans. Foles was on the bench in that game behind Michael Vick, and that's where he began this season, But when Vick was injured against the Giants in Week 5, Foles took over and led the Eagles to a comeback win.
He started all but one of the remaining 11 games and finished the season with 27 touchdown passes, only two interceptions and the highest quarterback rating in the NFL. The Eagles won the NFC East title after finishing 4-12 in 2012.
"Obviously, I heard a lot about him when he was in high school," Brees said. "I followed his career . . . He goes to Philadelphia, and look at what he has done. He's been pretty impressive for such a young player, mature beyond his years . . . He's played great."
Not that Brees would have expected anything less from a Westlake guy.