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Super Bowl LII: Eagles’ Nick Foles goes from backup QB to center stage

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles talks during NFL football

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles talks during NFL football Super Bowl 52 Opening Night Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minn. Credit: AP / Eric Gay

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Nick Foles sat atop one of the loftiest thrones the NFL can offer on Monday night.

As the starting quarterback for an Eagles team that on Sunday could become the champion of pro football, Foles was center stage at Super Bowl Opening Night. Surrounded by hundreds of reporters and cameras, bombarded with salvos of questions, sidled up to by a steady stream of network personalities, he wasn’t just at the epicenter of the attention. He was the epicenter.

All of it served as a reminder that less than two months ago, Foles was not perched but planted. Firmly. On the bench. Behind an MVP-caliber quarterback who seemed destined to be sitting where Foles sat on Monday, enjoying his first experience as a household name.

A torn ACL in the knee of Carson Wentz on Dec. 10 led to the switcheroo.

“It’s really humbling,” Foles said of his ascent. “It’s unbelievable and I’m really enjoying it. I’m really just trying to soak it in.”

The journey from backup to starter in Super Bowl LII will be a long one, but also a speedy one. When he takes the field Sunday against the Patriots, Foles will make his third postseason start for the Eagles, matching his number of regular-season starts.

There hasn’t been much time to consider the ramifications of it all, what it means for his future or that of the franchise. Wentz remains the Eagles’ quarterback of the future, if not its present. That leaves Foles in the rare situation of having an uncertain future beyond starting a Super Bowl.

“I’m not really worried about my future at all,” he said. “It’s been a crazy journey with these guys in the locker room and this Philadelphia Eagles organization. I’m really just grateful to be a part of it and be a piece of the puzzle going into this game.”

But for Foles, there has been a much longer trail to this height, one that nearly veered off into retirement just a few years ago.

He considered walking away from the sport at age 26 after a disappointing 2015 season with the Rams.

“I literally said a prayer,” Foles said of his period of contemplation after that year. “My heart said, ‘Go back.’ ”

So he signed with the Chiefs and spent a year in Kansas City. Then he returned to the Eagles — the one team with which he had experienced steady success, throwing for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions in 13 games in 2013 — to be the insurance policy behind second-year starter Wentz.

As of mid-December, he’d thrown four passes all season, but it was time to use that policy.

“No,” he said with a chuckle to the most obvious question of the night. “I did not imagine I would be the starter in the Super Bowl when the season started.”

Foles stood up and left his seat at the end of the hour-long interrogation on Monday. He might never ascend to such a lofty pedestal again, so he seemed to enjoy his turn in the spotlight.

There is only one chair above the one he occupied. It’s one that has been occupied by only 31 men over 51 years.

To be crowned a Super Bowl-winning quarterback would be the ultimate honor. And unlike Monday’s chair, he could sit in it for a lifetime.

But just as starting the Super Bowl was not something he thought about when the season began, winning it is not something he is entertaining now.

“We haven’t earned that,” he said. “We have a lot to do to earn that. That’s something you earn. That’s just not how I think. It goes back to living in the moment, doing everything you can in the moment to prepare for the game, and really just enjoy the process with your teammates.”

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