The Wait Is Over
The future looks bright for Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, but for now he’s just eager to get used to the NFL and life away from North Dakota
by Rob Maaddi

Talk about playing under pressure.

The buzz surrounding Carson Wentz is palpable. The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft is being billed as the future captain of the Philadelphia Eagles, a highly skilled quarterback who will help re-elevate the franchise and quite possibly be the savior who will deliver a Super Bowl title to the long-suffering, championship-starved Eagles fanbase.

Those are lofty expectations for a 23-year-old kid from North Dakota who seems more like the Average Joe than Joe Montana.
Yet Wentz is taking things in stride and putting that which he can’t control out of his mindset. He’s off to a remarkable start, with an impressive win—278 passing yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions—in his NFL debut. Even he knows one game, no matter how good, doesn’t amount to all that much in the grand scheme of things.

In addition to getting to know his teammates and the Eagles playbook, Wentz spent his first summer in Philadelphia doing things most guys his age do. The only exception being that his every move garnered lots of attention.

Like when he used some off time to “hit up” the Jersey Shore for the first time. When he posed for a picture with a lifeguard at 9th Street in Ocean City, N.J., it became a heavy topic of conversation on social media. “Being down the Shore has been fun,” Wentz says. “It’s a little different than the lake life I had back home. It’s faster paced but it’s really cool. I like it. I have to hit up a few more beaches.”
Another viral moment for Wentz came after a shopping trip at the Cherry Hill Mall when he got locked in a gas station bathroom down the road. The Twittersphere exploded after he shared news of the embarrassing experience.
“I thought it was funny, but I didn’t think it would blow up like that,” he says. “I’m not going to give you the whole story, but it wasn’t my fault. It was an equipment malfunction. I didn’t have my phone. After a while, my girlfriend realized I was locked in and asked for help. She was dying laughing.”
Despite the bathroom incident, Wentz liked South Jersey so much he bought a house here. He also brought his older brother, Zach, and his wife, Andrea, along for the journey. Zach Wentz was a school teacher in North Dakota before packing up and moving to the East Coast to make things easier for his little brother.
“It helps to have a familiar face,” Carson says. “My brother and I are really close, we’re best friends so having him here, he can help me with off-the-field things and family things and take care of my dog when I’m gone. It’s really good to have him.”
Wentz loves to hunt so living in South Jersey allows him to enjoy his favorite hobby. He hunts waterfowl with his three-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever, Henley. He was into pheasant hunting in North Dakota and he recently started bow hunting.
“Waterfowling is pretty fun because my dog can come along and she gets real excited,” he says. “Hunting is a big hobby of mine. I grew up doing it but fell in love with it in college. It was the perfect release from football. Just go enjoy Mother Nature and the beauty that God created.”
Players and coaches often say the toughest transition from college to the NFL is adjusting to the pace of the game. That also applies to life off the field, especially for a guy who spent most of his time in towns called Bismarck and Fargo. Wentz jokes that dealing with traffic issues has been harder than anything else. He stops short of calling the move “culture shock.”   
“The pace of life out here is different,” he says. “But I like it. There’s a lot to do compared to back home so that’s always fun. I like to be doing things, be on the go. That’s how I’m wired, so it’s a good fit.”
Then there are the rabid fans. Eagles fans are notorious for being harsh on opponents and critical of the hometown team. They’ve been waiting 56 years for an NFL title so they won’t be satisfied with anything less than a championship. Wentz could have a Hall of Fame career, but his success in Philly will be measured by whether he ever hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy and brings a parade down Broad Street.
“I’m still getting used to it, I’ll tell you that,” Wentz says about the passionate fans. “You see it on TV and I know they’re intense and they’re into it but from personal experiences, everything I’ve had has been positive. It’s been great. There’s a lot of excitement around the team with a new coaching staff and all the new faces here so that’s good. I’m still getting used to the intensity they’ll bring on Sundays but that’ll be a fun. Everyone is excited so that’s really cool.”
That can change the first time Wentz throws an interception or fumbles in the red zone. For now, he’s the man in Philly.

Despite trading up twice in the draft and giving up a slew of picks, including a first-round choice in 2017, to get Wentz, the Eagles didn’t plan to play him right away. All that changed on Sept. 3, when the Eagles traded starter Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings, leaving the QB duties in the hands of Wentz and Chase Daniel, the man who had been anointed Bradford’s backup.
Wentz signed a four-year contract for $26.7 million, including a signing bonus of $17.7 million. It’s a lot of money for what was supposed to have been something of a redshirt year for Wentz. Instead, he’ll earn every dollar.
“I just want to get better every day,” Wentz says. “My biggest thing is that you’re never a finished product, physically, mentally, any of that. So there’s a lot to learn. You can never watch enough tape, you can never study enough, and I just want to come out every day and learn a little bit more and get a little bit better.”
Before the draft, scouts raved about Wentz’s size—he’s 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds—and they love his arm strength, but many questioned his inexperience. Wentz started only 22 games at a Division II school. He led North Dakota State to the FCS national championship both years, but didn’t face powerhouse competition. ‘’
The positives far outweighed the negatives for Eagles coach Doug Pederson and personnel boss Howie Roseman.
“He was just an incredibly impressive guy,” Roseman says. “His presence when he walks in the room, when he talks to you not only about football but about life, and then when you watch him interact with people, just the impressions people have.”
Pederson’s eyes light up when he talks about Wentz. The first-year head coach spent most of his 10 seasons as a backup so he wasn’t blessed with similar skills. He considers Wentz a rare talent, a player who can lead the team back to contention and win a Super Bowl.   
“You just love everything about this kid,” Pederson says. “His energy, his work ethic, 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 wasn’t the typical jock in school. He was a superb student, the class valedictorian at Century High School and carried a 4.0 GPA in college.
“He has all the intangibles,” Roseman says.
He’s humble, too.
While some rookies show up with a diva attitude and actively seek the spotlight, Wentz realizes he hasn’t earned anything in the NFL. 
“That’s just my personality,” he says. “I don’t feel like I’m bigger or better than anyone else. I’m just out here trying to make this team better. That’s always been how I’ve carried myself. I don’t expect myself to get more credit than I deserve.”

Wentz won’t be confused with Tim Tebow, but he’s also a devout Christian who isn’t shy about expressing his faith. He often posts about faith on social media. He drove a pickup truck with a cross decal on the back in college. He has “AO1” tattooed on his right wrist. It stands for “Audience of One,” a reminder to live his life for God.

“My faith has been No. 1 in my life, so it doesn’t matter what happens. Like last year I broke my wrist, it’s frustrating but I know there’s always a bigger plan,” Wentz says. “I enjoy playing this game but at the end of the day I point it back to the Lord and hopefully I can make a positive impact on a lot of people.”

In just one game, Wentz’s on-field performance suggests his impact will be considerable, even transformational—but only time will tell whether he has lived up to the expectations. Either way, Wentz’s wait is over. Eagles fans hope they can soon say the same about the team’s championship drought.

Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles