Westlake coaches reflect on Brees-Foles showdown in NFL playoffs

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Westlake football takes center stage this weekend in the NFL playoffs when Nick Foles and the Eagles travel to New Orleans to take on Drew Brees and the Saints in the NFC divisional round.

Not only are both quarterbacks Super Bowl MVP winners, they both graduated from Westlake High School.

“It’s exciting,” former Westlake head coach Derek Long said on Thursday. “It’s tremendous. It’s a real testament to those young men that they’ve both had pretty rough roads. They’ve both weathered those down times they’ve had and things have turned out pretty well for them.”

Long was Foles’ head coach in high school, and he was the defensive coordinator for the Chaps when Brees led them to their only state title in football in 1996. But he has no rooting interest in the game other than for his former pupils.

“I want ’em both to throw for 600 yards and six touchdowns and then whatever happens happens,” Long joked.

It’s the same story for current Chaps head coach Todd Dodge, who never coached either quarterback, but has followed their careers from when they were roaming the halls at Westlake.

“That’s the fun thing about this game, is that every time the ball’s snapped something good can happen for fans of Westlake,” Dodge said.

While both quarterbacks get the headlines in terms of former Chaps playing football, it’s a program that’s turned out dozens of college football players — including current Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

“It’s a testament to the culture around the Westlake community,” Ehlinger said. “It’s very easy for young athletes to thrive just with the support system and the community. For those two guys to make it ultimately to the top level and be able to compete at such a high level, it’s really, really cool.”

The similarities between both Foles and Brees go deeper than their on-field success and shared alma mater. They’re both great leaders in the locker room. Long points to what they did for their teammates as an example.

When Westlake won the state title in 1996 with Brees, they played at Texas Stadium, the then-home of the Cowboys. Brees locker for the game was Troy Aikman’s, Dallas’ quarterback and a future hall of famer.

“There was some little ol’ JV guy … he comes up, ‘Oh, Troy Aikman, that’s my favorite football player in the world,'” Long remembered. “‘I just love Troy Aikman.’ And Drew looked around and said, ‘Hey, you can have it.’ Took his stuff and let that guy have that locker with Troy Aikman.”

While Foles led the Chaps to the state title game in 2006 with Long as head coach, he lost to current Chaps head coach Todd Dodge when he was at Southlake Carroll. The game was also at Texas Stadium, but it was the contrast between Foles’ helmets and his offensive linemen stood out for Long.

As head coach, Long used to give out helmet stickers to players for good plays. 13 years later, though, he realized the players who got them tended to be the skill players, like receivers, running backs and Foles at quarterback, not the offensive linemen.

“I don’t know if Nick realized that or if he just wanted to reward the linemen,” Long said. “We would grade the film, and every Saturday morning, we would put their little stickers in their locker. Nick would have all these stickers, and he would take ’em and he would hand them out to the offensive linemen every week. We get to the state championship game and Nick’s helmet doesn’t have any stickers, but I think those linemen would’ve run through a brick wall for him.”

Two NFL stars who got their start at Westlake making their hometown proud both on and off the field.

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