PHILADELPHIA - One of Nick Foles' weaknesses is easy to spot.
The Eagles' rookie quarterback, who will be making his first career start today at Washington, is among several Eagles players sporting mustaches this month in support of the "Movember" movement.
The cause, established in 1999, asks men to grow mustaches and post pictures on movember.com to raise money and awareness for various men's health issues, including prostate and testicular cancer.
Injured center Jason Kelce shaved off his bushy beard in favor of a curly handlebar 'stache reminiscent of the style popularized by Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rollie Fingers in the 1970s. Backup quarterback Trent Edwards is wearing a Fu Manchu, as are fellow NFL quarterbacks Joe Flacco (Baltimore) and Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay).
Foles, 23, has just a few whiskers above his upper lip.
"He can't grow one," said Edwards, Foles good friend, teammate and former roommate. "It's pretty pathetic. There's nothing but peach fuzz there."
Some of Foles' other physical quirks are more pronounced.
For instance, Edwards pointed out with a laugh that the 6-foot-6, 243-pound Foles wears size 16 shoes, reportedly second-biggest on the team behind 6-9, 330-pound tackle King Dunlap. Edwards also insisted that Foles has the largest helmet on the team.
The Eagles are more interested in other attributes. They are counting on him to use his physical and mental strength to help the Eagles snap a five-game losing streak against the Redskins today at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
"We'll play to what we think and what he thinks his strengths are," Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "Everybody's built just a little differently. He will see some things that he hasn't seen before and how he reacts to those things will be key. But I'm not worried about his leadership. Nick Foles is an excellent leader."
Foles credited his parents, Larry and Melissa Foles, for all of his success.
Larry Foles went from being a high school dropout to becoming a hugely successful restaurant entrepreneur who helped create national chains such as Eddie V's, Wildfish Grille and Z'Tejas in Texas. His parents will be at FedEx Field to see their son become the first Eagles rookie quarterback to start a regular-season game since Donovan McNabb in 1999.
"My parents are my heroes," Nick Foles said. "They came from nothing and were very successful. They've always been my inspiration. They gave me this opportunity."
Nick Foles also created his own opportunities. After leading Westlake High School (Austin, Texas) to the state 5A championship game as a senior, he spent the 2007-08 school year at Michigan State as a backup to Brian Hoyer and Conner Dixon. There he roomed with Eagles tight end Brent Celek's younger brother, Garrett, who is now with the Oakland Raiders, and then transferred to the University of Arizona.
Last season, Foles played behind an all-freshman offensive line, but never complained about the constant punishment he endured. His strong character was one of the reasons Eagles coach Andy Reid picked him in the third round of last April's draft.
"He's smart. He's got an active arm. He's got good size, and he was productive at the college level," Reid said. "I also thought he had good leadership ability. He brought energy to his team."
His intangible qualities were what stood out to his Eagles' teammates last Sunday.
When Michael Vick sustained a concussion in the second quarter against Dallas, Foles was summoned off the sideline to make his NFL debut. Foles made some mistakes - he threw an interception and lost a fumble that resulted in Cowboys touchdowns - but never lost his composure or confidence during the Eagles' 38-23 loss.
"I've said it since day one that he's got great arm strength," Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "He can put the ball in places that most guys can't in this league. But what really impresses me is his poise. He always stays calm back there."
Edwards was not surprised with the way Foles handled himself. He knows him better than anyone on the team, having first met him last winter. Foles was training in Irvine, Calif., and Edwards was living nearby when they were introduced by mutual friends.
Edwards, who was out of the NFL last season, signed with the Eagles in February, then Foles was drafted in April. The two were roommates during training camp at Lehigh University and Edwards even stayed with him for about six weeks in the regular season before finally getting his own place. The two still room together on road trips.
"It seems funny, but we are inseparable," Edwards said. "You have nowhere else to go, so you start hanging around with your teammates. I see him more than I see anybody else in my life and he'd say the same thing about me. But I feel it's good for both of us. We've learned a lot from each other.
"I was very impressed with him. I judge quarterbacks a little differently than most people. I judge them by their ability to get up off the ground after a hard hit and keep throwing the same passes," Edwards continued. "Some guys will change the way they play after taking a couple of shots. Nick didn't do that. He just got up and kept firing, which is what you have to do to be successful in this league."
Foles will likely be taking more hits today.
The Eagles' offensive line has been riddled with injuries all season. Former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski estimated on his radio show last week that Vick was knocked to the ground 134 times in the first nine games, including 27 sacks.
Foles may make some mistakes, but is not likely to lose his composure.
"Nothing seems to faze him," Edwards said. "There's going to be 90,000 people yelling at him, but I don't think it will bother him. You take away all the other stuff and it still comes down to 11 on 11 and he's pretty good at handling that part of it."
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