The rise of Carson Wentz

The Philadelphia Eagles have stumbled across a sensational player in rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, has he’s turned heads and performed at a very impressive level in his first three career games in the NFL.

Wentz’s journey to becoming one of the best rookie NFL starting QB’s in league history, however,  is quite a phenomenal underdog story. Let’s breakdown the story of a North Dakota kid who’s quickly becoming the face of the Eagles organization.

Wentz was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 30th, 1992. He moved to North Dakota at the age of three. Wentz attended Century High School in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he began his journey as a football player.

Wentz was a 5-foot-8 and 125 pounds entering his freshmen season, but still always dreamed of playing quarterback. He knew he’d have to get taller before his high school coaches would consider playing him at quarterback rather than defensive back (the position he started at starting his football career). His prayers were answered as he hit his growth spurt during his sophomore year as he reached 5-foot-10, then going to 6-foot-3 his junior year, and finally his senior year he reached 6-foot-five and his coaches played him at quarterback his final high school season.

“You could see the frame coming, but by no means did we estimate 6-5 or 6-6,” Century head football coach Ron Wingenbach said. “Just the physical awareness you see of Carson now is the most imposing thing. Look at the weight; he’s put on a lot of good pounds.”

Wentz’s older brother, Zach Wentz, also played quarterback for Century in 2007, while Carson got his shot in 2010. Wingenbach admits his favorite seasons coaching Century where when Zach and Carson were his quarterbacks. His main reason for those being his favorite were because of the leadership and confidence the two brought to the team.

Many wonder why Wentz chose to go to his hometown college of North Dakota State University an FCS Conference school, especially considering the fact he was pursued by a FBS Mid-American Conference in Central Michigan University.

By the time Centeral Michigan was ready to make Wentz an offer he said his mind was already set on North Dakota State. Wentz went from being a  5-foot-8, 125 pound freshmen defensive back, to becoming a 6-foot-5 quarterback on a full scholarship to an FCS school.

Wentz played sparingly behind the Bison’s starting quarterback, Brock Jensen, but that didn’t hinder him from putting in work in the film room and preparing himself for a starting opportunity. That opportunity finally came during his junior season in 2014, and Wentz never looked back.

Wentz started all 16 games during his junior season setting single-season records in passing attempts, completions, yards, and total offense per game. Wentz completed 228 of 358 passes for 3,111 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was also NDSU’s second-leading rusher with 138 carries for 642 yards and six touchdowns, while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. His 642 rushing yards were the most by a Bison QB since 1996.

Wentz scored the game-winning touchdown on a five-yard run to lift the Bison past Illinois State 29-27 with 37 seconds left in the FCS title game, his first championship as a starting quarterback for the Bison. Wentz was also named the Most Outstanding Player of the title game, while winning MVFC All-Academic first team and Capital One Academic All-America first team honors, and receiving NCAA Elite 89 award winner for the highest GPA at the national championship game.

Wentz was started to gain attention from NFL scouts and talent evaluators after his impressive first season as a starter. He followed it with a solid senior season, but one that was cut in half with a broken wrist. He appeared in seven games in 2015, including a championship victory over Jacksonville State. He completed 130 passes for 1,651 yards, 17 touchdowns and four interceptions in those seven games. His achievements his senior season included being named to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year watch list and College Football Performance Awards FCS National Performer of the Year watch list. Wentz was also named to the College Sporting News Preseason Fab 50 FCS All-America Team. Wentz also achieved the MVFC Honor Roll, Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award, and Presidents Council Academic Award, and was the NCAA Elite 90 award winner for the highest GPA at the national championship game.

Wentz’s next test – becoming an NFL quarterback. He entered a quarterback class with more well known commodities in Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, and Dak Prescott. Not many were familiar with the North Dakota product and had doubts about the FCS product due to the level of competiti0n he faced. His head coach at North Dakota State, Chris Klieman, had a lot of faith in his former quarterback, especially considering the fact Wentz mastered the pro-system he ran, which was a west coast offense.

Wentz took part in the 2016 Senior Bowl as the starting quarterback for the North squad. His play in the Senior Bowl secured his draft status as a top-10 pick in the NFL draft, as he finished the game throwing for 12 completions on 21 attempts for 117 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Wentz also stole the show at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, as he finished with the fastest 40 time for all the quarterbacks (4.77 seconds), broad jump (118.0 inch), and three cone drill (6.86 seconds).

Draft analysts were torn with their opinions of Wentz. Some believed he was the best quarterback in the draft, while many believed he’d be one of the worst and not worthy of a top-10 selection.

The Eagles believed in Wentz’s ability, and wanted to pair the stud quarterback with first-year head coach Doug Pederson. After the team’s formal visit with Wentz in North Dakota, Eagles Vice President of Football Operations, Howie Roseman, made a deal with Cleveland moving up to the No. 2 selection in order to acquire the 23-year-old quarterback.

Wentz joined the Eagles for the rookie OTA’s and was already impressing his coaches with how quickly he picked up the information they were relaying to him. This was when Pederson realized Wentz wasn’t like any other rookie he’s experienced.

“Just the fact that he came in ready to go,” Pederson said. “You just love everything about this kid. His energy, his work ethic, you know, it’s just little things now, detailed things in his footwork, his drop, the progressions and where his eyes are. Those are the things in the National Football League from a quarterback standpoint that really become very important on a game day.”

Wentz was expected to redshirt his rookie season sitting as the No. 3 quarterback and adjusting to the NFL. After Minnesota Vikings quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, suffered a season-ending injury, that changed everything for the Eagles. The team shipped starting quarterback, Sam Bradford, to the Vikings for a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round conditional pick. Pederson then named Wentz the Eagles starting quarterback only days before the regular season kicked off, a decision that has paid huge dividends to the future of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise.

Wentz has shocked the NFL world with his impressive play during the first three games of the season. He’s lead the Eagles to an impressive 3-0 start, while completing 66 passes on 102 passing attempts for 769 passing yards, five touchdowns, zero turnovers, and a 103.8 quarterback rating to date. He won offensive rookie of the week after his week one performance in the Eagles 29-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns, following that with recently winning NFC offensive player of the week after his performance in the Eagles 34-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The quarterback from North Dakota has brought new life to Philadelphia. He’s gotten the support from his team around him and he’s been getting praise from veterans every week.

“I watch him all the time,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said, cracking a smile. “It’s impressive what he’s doing, man. I think everybody is waiting to see him fall off or see a bad decision or see a rookie mistake. But so far, they haven’t come. He’s been the key reason why we’re 3-0.”

“You find yourself hearing the crowd getting excited,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “You’re watching the plays and we’re jumping up and down getting excited with them. You find yourself doing those things. When the offense is doing what they’re doing and then we’re doubling back and doing what we’re doing, it’s just tough to spot.”

“I told [head coach Doug Pederson] being 10 years in, this kid is inspiring me,” tight end Brent Celek said. “He’s adding youth to my game just by the way he’s acting, being in the huddle, taking command, it’s beyond impressive. It’s great. We have to keep it going. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the greatest team, but I’m excited with how he’s playing and he’s elevating everybody else’s play by the way he’s handling it.”

The kid who began his football career in high school as a 5-foot-8, 125 pounds defensive back has defied all the odds since he started playing the game of football. His desire to play the quarterback position has driven him to this point. Wentz’s never giving up, team-first, and winning demeanor has been contagious in the Eagles’ locker room. This is only the beginning from Wentz, but it’s easy to see how he’s destined for greatness. The rise of Carson Wentz is a true underdog story.

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