Carson Wentz: Driven To Be The Best By Julie bacanskas

Practice at the NovaCare Complex had just ended and players were slowly trickling into the Philadelphia Eagles’ locker room. Everyone that is but quarterback Carson Wentz. Instead, the rookie walked into the building, grabbed wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham and headed back outside toward the field.

Wanting to work on their timing, Wentz was eager to put in the extra effort to ensure the two were on the same page. Come gameday, it has to be right.

That post-practice session was nothing new for the quarterback. Even during his time at North Dakota State, his head coach Chris Klieman was impressed by Wentz’s work ethic. It’s an aspect of his character that has taken him far.

“He’s always trying to continue to master the game, learn more and more. He’s never going to tell you he has it all,” Klieman said. “That’s the neat thing. He always feels like he can get better and he always feels like there’s something more he can watch, something more he can work on to give himself the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday.”

That dedication, while a big part of the culture at North Dakota State, was something instilled in Wentz before he arrived on campus. Working hard and earning everything was part of his upbringing, lessons his parents taught him and his siblings early on in life.

However, when it comes to giving credit for his competitive nature, Wentz points to his older brother, Zach, who pushed him every day to be better.

“I always wanted to be like him and I always wanted to just compete and beat him,” Wentz recalled after practice on Thursday. “He was three years older than me and bigger and I never really did beat him, but it was always kind of a fun thing to match myself up to him.

“I can remember countless Wiffle ball games, floor hockey, shooting hoops in the driveway, all sorts of things. I hated to lose. My brother wasn’t as competitive as me, but he still had a competitive edge about him. I just hated to lose and I’ll never forget those days.”

When it came time for college, Wentz continued to follow in his brother’s footsteps and ultimately decided to attend the same school.

At North Dakota State, the quarterback was the first one to arrive at the school’s practice facility and the last one to leave on a daily basis. He studied film endlessly and worked to do anything he could to help improve his team.

Nothing has changed since then. Before he was named the Eagles’ starter, the quarterback was still doing all the little things to make sure he was mentally and physically ready. When head coach Doug Pederson announced on September 5 that Wentz would be the No. 1 quarterback, the rookie didn’t have to alter his preparation.

“I'm walking in at 5:45 this morning and he's already in the film room,” Pederson said during a press conference ahead of the team’s season opener. “That's just the type of person and that's the type of quarterback that we have. That's the type of guy that we knew we have in Carson Wentz. The way he led the huddle on Monday at practice, just what he's done in the last couple days, just getting himself ready to go just shows you the type of leader and the type of person that he is.”

While his coaches, past and present, as well as his teammates are impressed by how Wentz goes about his daily business, it isn’t something that fazes the quarterback.

In his mind, he’s just doing his job. There isn’t a reason for all the praise.

“There’s a lot of time in the film room, early mornings and some late nights. It’s just part of it,” Wentz said. “It’s part of being a student of the game and preparing. I love it. It’s understanding you want to be out there on Sundays dissecting things you’ve already seen. So, it’s just all part of it. You put in your time, but it’s definitely worth it and I enjoy it.”

While it’s still early in the quarterback’s career, and there are sure to be some bumps down the road, his first two regular season starts were memorable. Having missed so much of the preseason with a rib injury, Wentz’s level of readiness was a bit uncertain to those not constantly around him.

Would 38 snaps in one exhibition game be enough for the rookie to have a successful start to his NFL career? In the mind of his college coach, the answer was a resounding yes. Klieman remembered when the quarterback was out for eight games with a broken wrist last season. Even with the injury, Wentz didn’t miss a second of the behind-the-scenes action.

He may have been unable to suit up on Saturdays, but Wentz was still one of the hardest, most dedicated workers on the roster.

“What epitomizes what Carson did for our program was when he got hurt. On Saturday, when he broke his wrist and was out for 10 weeks, that next Monday he had a cast on and they were trying to decide when they were going to do surgery,” Klieman said. “He was still in watching film with the backup quarterback and I went in and talked to him because I knew that was where he was going to be every day at that time. I knew that’s the time he watched film. I said, ‘Hey Carson, let’s get together and talk about the surgery and some other things.’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m with Easton (Stick) right now. We’re trying to get him ready to play. We’ll talk here a little bit later on.’ That’s just the kind of guy, the kind of leader he was.

“He was in there non-stop. He did his running non-stop when he was able to, to make sure his body was in shape for whenever he had that opportunity to play. He was in the quarterback meetings. He was at practice talking to the quarterbacks. On gameday, he was on the sideline with a headset communicating with the coaches because he was another coach for us. He saw everything, so many things that he could articulate to our quarterbacks that we utilized him as a coach.”

Looking ahead, Wentz will have many lessons to learn and tips to pick up as he gets more games under his belt. But, the desire to work hard and put in the extra time will never steer him wrong.

Sometimes he’ll look back on his high school days, when he was a 5-8, 125-pound freshman and most thought football wouldn’t take him far. Now it’s clear Wentz has proved the doubters wrong.

“Even in high school, I remember that I was one of the probably two or three kids who would watch film. It was just something simple like that or offseason weights or something like that,” Wentz said. “You could just tell the guys that put in that time and gave the effort that they were seeing results. They were seeing it on the field on Friday nights back then. I’ve never really lost sight of that.”

Having innate talent is one thing, but pairing it with a will to study the game and a need to perfect the imperfections are qualities that will allow Wentz to truly succeed in this league.

“That’s the thing I think everybody at the next level is going to look at. What do you do when the lights are brightest? When the lights were the brightest, in the most critical times, he was at his best,” Klieman said. “I know it’s early on in his career, but the stage is just not going to be too big for this guy.”

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