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Q&A with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz

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Wentz less stressed heading into this season (2:23)

Eight days before the start of the 2016 regular season, Carson Wentz was thrown into action. On his way to the Eagles practice facility with Tim McManus in his passenger seat, Wentz shares how this season differs from last. (2:23)

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter Tim McManus recently rode to work with quarterback Carson Wentz. Here is a transcript of their conversation:

Tim McManus: Looks like you are able to find a little bit of country here in the Philadelphia area.

Carson Wentz: Little bit. Yeah. A little peace and quiet to go home to. It can be a bit of a drive some mornings, but it's totally worth it to go home and have a little space, a little peace and quiet and just kind of get away from everything.

TM: Guessing that was by design?

CW: Yeah, I actually grew up in North Dakota. You'd think I was on a farm, but I grew up in a city so I never really had a lot of space like this. I knew that's what I loved and what I wanted. Especially now with the life and the lifestyle that I live. It's just nice to kind of get away from everything. Get away from the world a little bit and have some space. Let my dogs run where I'm at. Hunt where I'm at and everything, so it works out. I'm very fortunate to be where I'm at.

TM: Do you get to hunt right on the premises?

CW: Yeah, I do a little hunting on my land and we have a couple of hunting leases and everything that my brother kind of manages and makes sure all is running smoothly on those. Got the trail cameras up, food plots, you name it. Which is nice. It's nice on our off day to be able to go out to sit in a tree stand for an hour-and-a-half, two hours, just to kind of get away. I don't have to travel too far. It works out really well.

TM: Are you trying to get a little city in the North Dakota boy, too, or have you kind of given up on all that?

CW: Definitely, it’s part of that. Going to the city, I actually love it. I love going to the city. I love all the restaurants. There's so many things to do. Attending other sporting events is definitely pretty cool to be a part of. With just kind of how I'm wired, you get used to the spotlight, the bright lights, the going places where everyone recognizes you. That's cool and I do enjoy that at times, but there's definitely times where you just want to chill and lay low. That's why I'm kind of out where I'm at and have some space like I do. I definitely see perks in both, but I'm thankful that I kind of get the best of both. That I can go to the city when I need to and kind of get away when I want to as well.

TM: Are you more recognized in Philly or in Fargo, North Dakota?

CW: I would still say Fargo. I would say just North Dakota in general. Going back this summer pretty much everybody, even if you don't follow football, back home it doesn't really matter. Everyone is kind of aware what's going on. Honestly, everyone is just so proud. The support is unbelievable. That's pretty cool. Philly, they know their stuff too. Especially during football season. It's all been really positive. It's all been really fun. It's definitely the position I've been put in and I'm very thankful for it.

TM: What's the best story you've got as far as Philly fan interaction?

CW: Good or bad?

TM: Either way. Let's go with one of each.

CW: I've had really a handful of positive opportunities with kids. This spring there was a little boy whose, like, Make a Wish, had a dying wish -- I posted it on Instagram -- and his last wish was to spend the day with me. That was just really humbling. I got to spend the day with him at the facility about two to three hours and got to hang out with him and his family. To me that was so humbling to recognize the big picture while I am playing this game. That was incredible.

I wouldn't necessarily say I've had negative experiences with Eagles fans. It’s all been positive, but man, you see them in the city every now and then, and they're just loud and in your face and aggressive, and I love it. Had a guy just go cruising right past me in the city and just started screaming the Eagles chant and then walking to dinner in the city. I'm just like, head down, head down just keep walking. It's all been good and fortunately nothing has been negative up to this point.

TM: I've watched the open practices, especially this summer, and the way that this city and this fan base reacts to you. It’s really something. That happens back home too. The couple from North Dakota that came down, openly weeping at the chance to be at the facility. How do you handle that? That strong reaction that you've generated from so many people.

CW: I never let it change who I am or how I act, I guess, just kind of based on … their reactions. I think at the end of the day, I'm kind of just who I am. I'm comfortable with who I am. It is pretty cool. You recognize the potential impact you can make on, really, people of all ages. They either look up to you, admire you, respect you, or like you just as a quarterback. It gives me an opportunity to just make a difference in some respect. More than just winning football games. I think I've been put in this position for a reason. It can be a lot sometimes, but I'm very thankful for it. I honestly wouldn't trade it for the world.

TM: The loss of anonymity I think about a decent amount. With you, in particular, your star kind of rose so quickly. Back in high school you grew how many inches?

CW: I was 5-8 when I was a freshman. Probably 125 pounds. I graduated at 6-5. That's about nine inches there. Nine inches. About 80 pounds later, I was a freshman in college. In high school, being anonymous was easy. Going to college, I didn't start until I was a junior, so I was really just the backup quarterback. Redshirted and was the backup for two years. Really, my junior year, the anonymity kind of just went out the window a little bit. In Fargo, NDSU football, it's everything. Everyone's all about it. Everyone follows it. The passion is the real deal out there. It’s quite similar to how it is out here.

Senior year, being anonymous was even tougher, but again all positive interactions. But then, once that senior year closed and everyone realized like, holy smokes, this kid is going to go to the next level and not just go to the next level, but to be a first-round pick -- that all kind of changed and now, especially fast-forward a year and a half later, I can't really go anywhere without being recognized. Everyone's respectful of your time and everything, as well, and there's times you just have to go and do your thing to some extent. My favorite part is seeing young kids that are just at a loss for words. Especially when I'm back in North Dakota because I'm like, I used to be you. I used to look up to professional athletes. Be kind of starstruck when I'd see them and everything. Just to be able to make a difference and be a role model to them is really special to me.

TM: So when did you first want to be an NFL quarterback?

CW: When I was a kid. Mom still has it somewhere. I'd say I was, like, in second grade and I wrote that I wanted to play in the NFL in, like, a class project or something. I remember tweeting about that last year during the draft or right before the draft and kind of just how surreal that was. When I was a kid, when it was baseball season I wanted to be in the MLB. When it was hockey season I thought I was going to play in the NHL and all those things. As I grew up I realized that football is the sport for me. It was a faster pace, the contact, the competitiveness. I loved every aspect of it. I've always loved the game. I remember when I was a kid, driving my dad crazy because we'd be watching the Vikings games and at halftime I was just waiting and waiting to go outside and play catch. We'd usually play until almost the fourth quarter and he'd be pissed at me because we missed the game. I didn't really care to watch the game. I just wanted to go play. I've always just loved it. It’s sometimes so surreal to recognize that I am living my dream.

TM: When you're 5-8, 125 as a freshman?

CW: It was looking tough. It was looking tough for a while. I was a freshman [and] I was 5-8, and my older brother was a senior and he played quarterback at the time. I believe he was 6-2, 200 pounds, and I just remember praying when I was a freshman, "God, please just help me be 6 feet. If I can only be 6 feet that'd be good enough." I remember praying that and just hoping that. Next thing you know I surpassed my brother, my dad, really everybody in my family. I was 6-5 before I knew it. Pretty crazy how that all unfolded. I would say God bless my parents for having to buy me clothes after clothes after clothes because I was growing so much. Pretty cool.

TM: You get to repay them now?

CW: Exactly.

TM: You got blessed with the physical gifts and also all the coaches have spoken about the mental gifts that you have as well when it comes to the game. I know that that’s what sold them kind of early during the pre-draft process. Asking you to recall a play. Go up to the board and have the instant recall. Can you sort of explain how your mind works in that way when it comes to football? How you're able to process?

CW: I've been obviously very fortunate, very blessed that I always was successful in school. I wouldn't say I had a photographic memory by any means. I do think I've been fortunate to have very good ability to recall information. Especially visual information, visual cues I pick up on, fortunately, very easily. I can't really speak a ton on that, other than I'm just fortunate in that area. I think a lot of it for me, coming from college and making that transition even in that pre-draft process, showing my knowledge of football, what we did at North Dakota State -- the preparation that the coaches, myself, that we all put in when I was in college -- just helped me understand the game to another level that most college players don't. It really helped me to display that football knowledge, that football IQ, and so understanding bigger concepts.

For example, the Eagles had me talk about or recall everything like that -- it came way more naturally. Things are just similar, comparable. I just had a bigger-picture understanding of the game. The preparation and what we did in college definitely helped prepare me for that. I've been very fortunate to have the ability to have good recall and a visual kind of awareness in certain things.

TM: Picking up on visual cues, what does that mean? If you see somebody aligned somewhere you kind of recognize immediately what that is?

CW: I wish I always recognized it immediately. For example, just watching film: You watch a lot of film, even in college you watch a lot of film of your opponents. Just little things. What technique is the D-line playing? Are they over/under front? Is the safety inside the hash/outside the hash? All sorts of little things. The alignment of the linebackers. There's a lot of different things. Some teams show a great deal of them. Some teams don't have a lot of cues, but things happen at the snap really fast. Being able to kind of have that precursor to what's about to happen in your mind where you can see something and you know what's about to take place. Obviously, this game, as a quarterback, you've got to make decisions really quickly. All the time. Split-second decisions. Time in and time out. Just being able to think quickly and read and react and have those visual cues just kind of alert you to what's about to take place is a huge part of the position. I'm thankful that I have that ability. I'm definitely not the only one. Lots of quarterbacks pride themselves on those types of things.

TM: I'm just struck kind of driving into the city with you. You go from the quaint country setting into the beast. You have a very unique spot in this city. You have a lot of people looking up to you, relying on you in some ways. What kind of feelings come over you when you make this drive every day and you start seeing the skyscrapers and feeling the energy of the city.

CW: Honestly, it’s usually not a lot of traffic. Usually it’s a little on the early side. Especially when I get up here to the Walt Whitman Bridge and just kind of see the city. I still just recognize I'm in Philadelphia. This is now my home. It’s one of the best cities in America and here I am crossing the bridge into it every day. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself. I do enjoy the drive. It gives me about 30 minutes to usually throw on a podcast, play some worship music, play some country music, whatever I'm feeling. By the time I get to the facility my mind is usually in the right place, awake and alert. I say usually. It can be early mornings sometimes. I definitely take that 30 minutes to just make sure my mind is in the right place for each day and kind of give thanks to the Lord. Seeing the skyscrapers and everything, it just kind of makes it real. Coming in crossing this bridge every day is a nice reminder of where I'm at and what's been put in front of me.

TM: Now, are you turning all the lights on in the facility? It's dawn here and we're heading in.

CW: No, there's usually a handful of coaches and players getting in around the same time. Last year we got there pretty early. This year I'll probably get 30 minutes extra sleep. I thought we were there a little excessively early last year.

TM: How early?

CW: We get there about 5:30 and I just never got enough sleep; 5:30 means I'm getting up at 4:30. Anytime you see a 4 before the alarm, it hurts a little bit. I usually like to get there around 6. Obviously, every day is a little different. I'm not going to say every day I'm there right at 6, but it gives me a good time to get in and watch some film, eat some breakfast, kind of get everything situated before you get the day started usually around 8:30. I think that is usually enough time.

I enjoy it right now because I am just catching the sunup, but in about a week or so I won't be seeing the sun. There's days late in the year where you don't see the sun all day other than practice. You've got to love it. It's all part of the journey.

TM: You got the starting job eight days before the start of the regular season [last year] coming from North Dakota State, having to learn a brand-new system, so I can understand why you had to get the early jump. One person described you as, like, almost a ghost because you had to be in the film room all the time cramming for the final that was right in front of you. Are you able to kind of pick your head up a little more now and breathe and interact and do that whole thing?

CW: Yeah, a little bit. Last year, like you just said, eight days before the season it’s like, "Hey, you're up, let's go." I loved it. I wouldn't trade that for the world. I wouldn't have changed a thing. You're trying to learn. You're still trying to master your own offense to some extent, and having a new coaching staff there's different looks. The biggest thing for us last year is what's our protection plan each week. When a coaching staff is for the first time together, they're kind of learning how they want to do it together, as well. Between the coaches, me, [center Jason] Kelce and the other quarterbacks, it was definitely a process that we were all in together. That's where you spend the most time. At least for me. Just blitz studies. You never want to be hot, you always want to be protected. So that was the big thing. Not just learning your own offensive schemes, but the calls you wanted to make and how you wanted to go about protecting different looks. You have to go watch the blitz tape like crazy. I do think I can breathe a little bit more this year. Plus, I know what to expect.

Really, the first five weeks we truly didn't have a true normal in-season week. We had the Monday Night Football Week 2. We had a bye Week 4. It was just all over the place. I was always kind of just scrambling. Wasn't sure what to expect, until later in the year, when I finally got in a routine. That's where I could finally start to breathe because I kind of knew what to expect, I had a routine down, and now going forward this year it’s definitely a lot less stressful already. I've always enjoyed it, but I kind of know what to expect and I can breathe a little bit more, like you said. I'm thankful for that because there's days where it would be stressful and exhausting. Not that it is not going to be this year at times, but just kind of knowing what to expect is a big difference.

TM: In the offseason you had corrective eye surgery. I was trying to put myself in your shoes there. Your eyes, that's your livelihood. I'm sure you would not take that lightly. There must've been a lot of upside in order to do something like that.

CW: Yeah, it was something that I had wanted to do since college, but I wanted to wait until I had the right amount of time to recover and make sure it was good and I did my research. I talked to a lot of people. Made sure it was really the right thing to do, and just wearing contacts for me was honestly kind of annoying. I always had the fear -- I'd lost a contact before in a game going back to high school. When I would lose a contact, my eyes were not great. I couldn't read much without my glasses or contacts on, and they would always get really dry and just kind of irritate me, and so I knew when I had the time to do it I went ahead and got it done. It's honestly pretty incredible to roll over in the morning and see. Simple stuff like that that now I'm already starting to take for granted again. It's been a really good decision and my vision has been really good.

TM: Are you a better quarterback for it?

CW: I don't know if I'd say I am a better quarterback. With contacts in, my eyes were great. It’s just another thing to not have to worry about taking place on the field. I remember in college I got gouged in the eye underneath a fumble pile once, and the next week I wore a visor because I am not getting gouged in the eye. I am not worrying about losing my contacts or anything. And I hated the visor; I wore it for a day and I hated it. Now it’s just one less thing to worry about.

TM: And the other thing you did in the offseason was you got some new threads, courtesy of safety Malcolm Jenkins, and some postgame attire. You're not getting rid of the Birkenstocks, are you?

CW: No, no. I still got the Birks, those are going strong. They're so comfy and easy. I've had a number of suits already, but Malcolm and his company have kind of hooked me up a little bit as well. It's pretty cool. I thought my style was pretty good, though. I don't know about you, Tim.

TM: I think it was right on the money. Tough critics in this town. Thanks very much for having us along for the ride. Appreciate it, man. Best of luck.

CW: What did I tell you, 6:33, here we are.