Leadership Lessons From the Super Bowl’s Unlikely MVP

Nick Foles was a backup quarterback who came to define the Philadelphia Eagles’ postseason success—and his leadership highlights the power of perseverance, teamwork, and creativity.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who won this year’s Super Bowl, offer a lot of tales about leadership, perseverance, and pulling success out of the arms of failure. In other words, their win Sunday night is a sports story for the ages. (Sorry, Tom Brady.)

But perhaps the man with the best story to tell is Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who found himself in the unlikely position as Super Bowl MVP. And as he reflected on his success Sunday night, he spoke in terms that anyone in leadership can appreciate: Two years before he won the biggest game of his entire life, he nearly gave up on football.

 I’m grateful that I made the decision to come back and play.

“I think as people, we deal with struggles. And that was a moment in my life where, you know, I thought about it, and I prayed about it, and I’m grateful that I made the decision to come back and play,” he said during a press conference after the game.

That decision to stay in the league led to an improbable series of events for Foles, who started his career with the Eagles, was traded away in 2015, largely spent two years in a diminished role with other teams, and returned to the Eagles last year—as a backup to top-ranking quarterback Carson Wentz.

When Wentz suffered a knee injury near the end of the season, Foles stepped in as the team’s starter for the first time in three years—and brought the team to victory in the Super Bowl.

“The 29-year-old signal-caller who gave an entire city hope after Wentz’s season came to a seemingly cruel, premature end, wound up delivering more than anyone could have imagined: the Eagles’ first NFL championship since 1960,” The Washington Post’s Kimberley A. Martin wrote of the impressive success.

His story arc—that of an apparently past-his-prime backup who became an unlikely starter, only to dominate one of the most successful teams of the past two decades—stands out. But a big reason it does is because of the way he carried himself during Sunday’s game—he was bold, decisive, and focused on the team’s play as a whole.

Foles and coach Doug Pederson got the team over the edge thanks to two fourth-down plays, one of which Pederson nicknamed “The Philly Special.” The trick play had tight end Trey Burton throwing the ball to Foles, who was waiting in the end zone—a move that scored the team a major advantage in its 41-33 win.

“That was something we’d been working on, and Doug and I were talking—I was like, ‘Let’s just run it.’ And it was a good time,” Foles said, according to ESPN.

Foles wasn’t supposed to be the guy on the stage leading the Eagles’ playoff hopes, but he was ultimately the person who led the team over the edge—and it was his team-focused leadership instincts that ultimately did the trick.

“I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman,” Foles said of his Super Bowl success. “I have amazing teammates, amazing coaches around me. And all I had to do was just go play as hard as I could, and play for one another, and play for those guys.”

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. (YouTube screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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