To get an idea of what kind of NFL quarterback Carson Wentz was going to be for the Philadelphia Eagles — just go back to his first job.
He was a youth baseball umpire in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Even at 16, Wentz stood tall behind the plate. He made decisive judgments on pitches in the strike zone. And he was cagey and nimble enough to know how to evade the constant scorn from irate parents.
“I did not go behind the plate too often because I didn’t want to deal with that,” Wentz recalled. “I steered pretty clear of that.”
Today, Wentz is one of the bright young rookies playing quarterback in the NFL. Along with Dallas Cowboys revelation Dak Prescott, the two first-year signal callers are lauded for their poise and maturity in handling the position.
Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was the latest this week to heap praise on the North Dakota State product.
“(Wentz) is totally equipped to play,” Carroll said. “They haven’t had to simplify it to the point where they take it down a notch for a rookie. He’s able to make checks and kill calls, and change plays one side to another. He’s dealing with protections. He can (make) a variety of throws. He can run well. He’s a good athlete, and he can make good decisions in space. He throws well on the run. He’s a really good player — and he’s going to be a great player as he just gains experience.”
Hmm ... those words sound familiar to what the longtime coach said a few years ago?
Russell Wilson came into the league out of Wisconsin in 2012, and immediately grabbed the starting job in Seattle.
“(Wentz) may have started faster,” Carroll said.
Make no mistake, Wilson had one of the best rookie campaigns in recent history, throwing for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns, and adding another 489 and four scores on the ground.
But comparisons of their first month in the NFL are not even close:
▪ Wilson passed for 594 yards in his first four games. The most he totaled in one game was 160 yards in a loss against St. Louis. He had four passing touchdowns and four interceptions.
▪ Wentz totaled 1,007 yards in his first four starts. He threw seven touchdowns and one interception.
Since then, Wentz has hit a few speed bumps, but not enough to curb all the talk surrounding his future superstardom.
“He’s going to be a great quarterback for a long time,” Wilson said.
After he was selected No. 2 overall in the first round by the Eagles last June, Wentz wasn’t expected to be the starter to open the season. Incumbent Sam Bradford was.
But after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a career-threatening leg injury during the preseason in Minnesota, the Vikings made Philadelphia a trade offer for Bradford it could not refuse the week before the start of the regular season.
Suddenly it was Wentz’s time.
“If we were going to go through some growing pains, take some lumps, let’s do it in our first year — let’s let him get exposed to everything,” said Eagles’ first-year coach Doug Pederson, a Ferndale native. “We felt comfortable in his ability to play. ... He’s handled it like a seasoned veteran.”
It has helped tremendously that a small-town coach such as Pederson, and a small-state product such as Wentz see the world, including football, similarly.
“Coach Pederson has been great for me,” Wentz said. “He’s a big Christian faith-based guy like myself. He loves the outdoors. He loves hunting. Some of the things we can talk about is not always football.”