PHILADELPHIA — Ten years after Drew Brees led Westlake High to the Texas state championship, Nick Foles broke many of his passing records but couldn't deliver another title for the Austin-based school.
The quarterbacks go head-to-head for the first time in the NFL with more at stake when Brees' Saints visit Foles' Eagles in an NFC wild-card game tonight.
"Drew is a tremendous player. He's a guy that I've looked up to," Foles said. "He's a guy I've watched on film and just watched what he's done, and I have a lot of respect for him as a player and a person. I know Westlake is really proud."
Brees watched Foles play in high school once, when he returned in 2006 for the 10-year reunion of the Chapparals' championship team. Foles led Westlake to the state title game that year, only to lose to Southlake Carroll.
The players hadn't met until the Eagles played at New Orleans last year. Foles was Michael Vick's backup then.
"I heard a lot about him when he was at Westlake, but there was a 10-year age difference," Brees said. "I followed his career. He has been pretty impressive for such a young player, mature beyond his years."
Foles started six games as a rookie last year but took over this season after Vick was injured and had a remarkable year. He was 8-2 as a starter, helping the Eagles rebound from a 1-3 start. Foles led the NFL with the third-highest passer rating (119.2) in league history.
"I'm very happy for his success," said Brees, who boasts that high school title and a Super Bowl title after the 2009 season. "Obviously not just for the fact we're from the same high school and I kind of know the road he's traveled, but he seems like a tremendous young man."
Brees faces a Philly defense that allowed the most yards passing in the NFL this season. But he ignores the ugly numbers. "They're great at taking the ball away," he said. "They're great at getting pressure on you. They fly around and make all kinds of plays. They have all kinds of playmakers at the line of scrimmage."
To reach Super Bowl heights, Foles must go through a Saints team that gave up the second-fewest yards passing. "They're going to mix it up with their coverages," Foles said. "They're going to try to put pressure on you, and they're going to try to get to you. I think the key to that is that we have to recognize as a team when they're trying to put pressure on."