I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.
First, it was a producer I work with at Westwood One who is a Cowboys fan. Then it was a Giants season-ticket holder who works with me at SiriusXM.
In a span of a couple of days, independently of each other, both people voluntarily offered that they don’t like the Philadelphia Eagles, and never will, but there was something so inherently likable about star second-year quarterback Carson Wentz that part of them was OK with the Eagles running roughshod over the rest of the NFC East the way they have this season.
One was a middle-aged man from Texas, the other was a young woman in her early 20s from New Jersey, and the only point of commonality between them that I can think of was a shared affinity for the MVP candidate in Philadelphia who has taken the NFL by storm.
As an Eagles fan growing up outside of Philadelphia in Wyomissing, Pa., I can’t ever recall fans of hated NFC East rivals liking another player in the division to this extent. Even during my playing stints for both the Cowboys and the Redskins, there was always seemingly nothing but animosity among fans of the four teams in the division.
Until now, evidently.
The “Wentz Wagon” is a very real thing, and people are jumping on board from all over the place. Even my wife, who hasn’t shown much of an interest in the NFL since I retired in 2008, is getting lured back in this season in small part because of the Eagles’ success but more so because of the emotional “Dutch Destroyer” piece that ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi did before the Eagles played the Redskins on Monday Night Football in October.
If you haven’t seen the story or the impact that Wentz has had on a mourning family you need to do so as soon as possible.
Through 10 games, the Eagles have the best record in football, and there are a lot of reasons for that. They have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a ferocious defensive line with incredible depth and a host of young players, like running back Corey Clement and cornerback Jalen Mills, who have come out of nowhere to play roles in the team’s success.
Make no mistake about it, however, the key component has been the second-year signal-caller from North Dakota who leads the NFL with 25 touchdown passes.
What makes Wentz so special on the field was on full display during the second half of Sunday night’s contest against the Cowboys. After a subpar first half, especially by his standards, Wentz made a handful of plays during the third quarter that only a select few quarterbacks in the NFL could make. He hasn’t experienced the success of Super Bowl winning triggermen like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Ben Roethlisberger yet to be put in their category, but some of the plays that he makes on a consistent basis and were evident during that incredible stint in the second half on Sunday night were very similar to those gridiron magicians.
But that’s not even a big part of why he is so darn likable.
He’s a Bismarck, N.D., native who always seems to have a smile on his face, posts social media messages regarding his faith often and is genuinely one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Early last week before the Cowboys game, he tweeted about it being “Rivalry Week,” which is the thing you’d expect to see from a high school or maybe even a college kid but not a starting NFL quarterback. There’s a youthful exuberance that is refreshing in that it hasn’t been beaten down by the unforgiving business of the NFL. At least not yet.
In fact, my biggest concern with him getting drafted by the Eagles was the possibility that he could actually be too nice for the city of Philadelphia. That may not make sense to a lot of you, but if you’re from Philadelphia, you know exactly what I mean.
The first time I saw Wentz was in the FCS championship game his junior year, when he led the North Dakota State Bison to a come-from-behind victory by running in for the game winner with less than a minute left. The next year, we talked the day before the championship game about his decision to play despite the fact that he hadn’t played since Oct. 17 of that season because of a broken wrist. He was aware that there was a risk of re-injury or that a bad performance the next day could adversely affect his burgeoning draft stock at that point, but he wanted to be out there for his teammates, wanted to win a championship and more than anything was anxious to get back out there and play.
The Bison won in a rout the next day. The way Wentz is playing so far this year, he might not have to wait too long before his next championship performance.
And when he does that, there may be more people rooting for him than just Eagles fans. A lot more.