Oct. 8, 2010
By Valery Meusburger
Arizona Athletic Media Relations
It's not every year that a college football team is able to start the season with a 4-0 record. In fact, the last time Arizona was able to do this was 1998, when the Wildcats went on to defeat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl for a school-best record of 12-1. This season Head Coach Mike Stoops eyes an even more successful year, starting strong by leading the Cats to victories over Toledo, The Citadel, Iowa, and California.
In order to have such a successful season, in addition to a knowledgeable coaching staff, a team needs talented players that work together and can make plays. An integral part of team chemistry is a central leader - and quarterback Nick Foles has stepped into that role.
According to wide receiver and roommate junior David Douglas, "Nick is a great leader. After spending the off season knowing he's going to be the starting quarterback, he's really just stepped into that role. He is an easy guy to get along with and he's got great chemistry with everybody."
Upon becoming the starting quarterback, Foles has become the glue that holds the team together, but his journey to this role has been anything but traditional.
Growing up, Foles spent a majority of his spring and summer training time in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area - enough so that it "felt like a second home" for him. So, naturally when it came time to look at colleges, Foles was interested in coming to Arizona; but not to the U of A. Instead, after being recruited by Coaches Dirk Koetter and Roy Wittke, Foles committed to Arizona State University.
"I really liked Coach Koetter and Wittke; I thought it would be a great opportunity to play under them, as well as to be near my relatives here in Phoenix," Foles said.
After the announcement that Koetter and Wittke would not be coaching the Sun Devils after the 2006 season however, Foles decided to re-open himself to recruiting because he wanted to choose "where I went to college based on who I wanted to play for."
It ended up that the coach Foles wanted to play for was Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans.
"I respected him most as a person, and I went up to Michigan and really bonded with him. I knew that he was the person that I really wanted to play for." Foles said.
Foles spent his freshman year as a Spartan, playing in one game in which he passed for 57 yards, including one 22 yard pass. After some soul searching, Foles decided there was more to life than just football, and that he "really needed to enjoy school, as well as be closer to family" so he began to look at a different university yet again.
His search led him to the Arizona area for a second time, only to find home a little further south at the University of Arizona. Recruited by former Offensive Coordinator Sonny Dykes, Foles "just felt right" about the Arizona Athletic program.
"You could see the whole athletic department just fit perfectly. The people at Arizona, the coaches - the program as a whole just seemed like the place for me," added Foles. "I was really happy I was able to come here, I couldn't ask for a better place."
Getting to UA was only half the battle for Foles. With the graduation of quarterback Willie Tuitama, the quarterback position was wide open with several viable candidates, including then sophomore Matt Scott, leaving Foles looking for a way to stand out and earn the starting position.
"I had to work hard to learn the offense. There were definitely some ups and downs just because I was a young guy, and I was dealing with a totally different offense than what I played at Michigan State," said Foles. "The big thing was that I worked as hard as I could. I left it all on the field and I worked hard in the weight room. I knew that if I didn't get the starting job I would do everything I could so that next time there was no way I wouldn't get it."
Foles did his best to always stay ready by preparing himself for the position every day. Between extra hours spent at practice, lifting and watching film, he knew he was "going to be ready when the time came, and was going to make the most of it."
The time came in Foles' redshirt sophomore season against Iowa on the road. From there, Foles emerged as one of the Pac-10's leading quarterbacks with 2,486 passing yards, a 63.4 percent completion rate and a career long pass of 71 yards, leading the Wildcats to their second consecutive bowl game and a season finish of 8-5.
Rather than just sit back and enjoy his success, Foles has stepped up and taken the role of starting quarterback even more seriously coming into the 2010 season. With the addition of Coach Frank Scelfo, Foles has refined his skills and worked to gain confidence with his play reading as well as overall decision making.
"[Foles] was raw but you could see that he had a great work ethic," said Scelfo. "There were some mechanical issues that he had to work through, but he's really worked hard on it so he's getting a lot better. I just wanted to make him the best that he could possibly be and see how high his expectations were. When we found out he had some big dreams for not only himself, but also the team then we realized we both believed in the same thing, and that improving would be easy."
According to Scelfo, Foles has the characteristics necessary to make it as one of football's top athletes.
"He spends the extra time and he is very open to criticism. Players have a hard time with that - if you tell them they aren't doing something right they usually take it personally but, Nick takes it to heart," Scelfo added. "He knows that it's a way for improvement; he takes it as good coaching."
It is this response to criticism that has enabled Foles to get where he is today - one of the top ranked quarterbacks in the nation, igniting even a few Heisman mentions about the shaggy-haired Texan.
Nevertheless, by his own standards as well as Coach Scelfo's, Foles is far from a finished product. Goals are created on a daily basis for him to improve upon, whether it's something he needs extreme work on or something he already does well.
"Every day is a learning process and I have to keep working hard," Foles said. "As a quarterback you have your ups and downs but how you come back and respond shows how you grow as a player. As a team, we are working hard to come back from last year and be the team everyone expects us to be."
And so far, that is just what the Wildcats are doing under Foles' leadership.
It doesn't matter where he came from, where he started, or where went - it only matters that Foles is at the U of A now, and is helping Wildcat Football work its way towards what promises to be one of its strongest seasons yet.