Nick Foles arrived at The Doylestown Bookshop at 2:23 p.m. Thursday, a red SUV with tinted windows parking at the back door so that he could slip into the store without causing any commotion. But after a long ride from Northeast Philadelphia, he had to use the men's room, and as he walked toward the center of the store he could see them all.
There were Eagles fans in Foles jerseys, in Foles T-shirts, in Brian Dawkins jerseys, in Carson Wentz T-shirts, in green Eagles hats, in white Eagles hats, in black Eagles hats, and in green-and-black-and-white Eagles hats. There were Eagles fans snaking around the shelves, paging through copies of Foles' just-released autobiography, Believe It, sitting on the floor or standing up near display tables of bestsellers and high school students' summer-reading requirements.
There were Eagles fans young and Eagles fans old and Eagles fans in between. There was Ellis Funchess, 32, of New Britain, who admitted to crying when Wentz injured his knee on Dec. 10 against the Rams, then crying again at the end of Super Bowl LII. There was Jeff Silcox, 58, of Doylestown, whose family had Eagles season tickets for 50 years, who hosted a Super Bowl party and was left, after the Eagles' 41-33 victory over the Patriots, with his refrigerator still full of food, because everyone was too nervous to eat. There were Eagles fans in wheelchairs who waited for Foles with expectant looks on their faces, as if they hoped he might lay hands on them.
There were at least 600 Eagles fans in all – that's how many tickets the shop sold for the event – the line streaming out the front door and wrapping around the block. Each person could have Foles sign as many as three books, which meant that, over the two hours that he was scheduled to be there, he had to sign an average of 15 books a minute to finish in time to hop back in the red SUV and head to his next signing, in Devon. He already had autographed, his marketing manager estimated, 7,500 books over three days, with all the proceeds going to various charities of Foles' choosing. If he complains of soreness in his throwing hand during training camp, no one will wonder why.
He saw all of this, and when he exited the men's room, they gave him a loud ovation. This is Nick Foles' life now, after becoming a Super Bowl MVP and the underdog of all underdogs, after quarterbacking the Eagles to their first championship in 57 years. They cheer him when he pees, and they reference the Philly Special and his marvelous performance that night in Minneapolis, and they say Thank you with wide grins and wet eyes.
"You can tell the emotions on every single person's face," Foles said in an interview before the signing. "Some show more than others. I've even had some where [for them] it's hard to breathe. Some kids who are probably super-loud and crazy are very quiet because they're nervous. A lot of thank-yous from older generations who weren't sure they were going to be able to see one in their lifetime – just hearing those stories, that's what I take away."
He has reciprocated that collective joy with a measure of grace that still seems difficult to comprehend: his public support of Wentz that has diffused any discussion of a quarterback controversy, his admission that he had all but retired from the NFL in 2016 before reconsidering, his memorable post-Super Bowl remarks about the value and power of experiencing failure. The months since the Super Bowl have been a whirlwind – Disneyworld, the late-night talk-show circuit, the reality that he might still be the starting quarterback when the regular season begins – and not all of it has been easy or pleasant.
Just Tuesday, for instance, he drove from a book event in New York to New Jersey, and two or three cars followed his, strangers tailing him on to the Jersey Turnpike for … what? For the chance to catch him in a vulnerable moment for an embarrassing social-media post? For something worse? On Thursday, as Foles sat a table with a black Sharpie, a police officer stood over his left shoulder, and another was close by, keeping an eye on each person in line, just in case. This is Nick Foles' life now, too, and he has enough perspective and self-knowledge to walk away from it at any time if it all were to become too much, if he decided he didn't need football anymore.
"I think a lot of people wonder, 'When the game's over, how will I feel? How will I handle it?'" he said. "You do it for so long. It's a lot on your family. It's a lot on you. But there are a lot of great things with it. …
"I know that when the game's over, I'll be grateful, and there will be a sense of peace. That's good to know it's there. It doesn't mean it's the right time. Who knows? I could play one more year. I could play 10 more years. People always ask me that, and I always say that I look at it year to year with what I'm doing. I'll sit down with my wife: Why do we do this? Are we doing this to glorify God? How's our marriage? How are we as parents? Is this taking away from that?"
In a way, the timing won't matter. He could retire tomorrow, and those Eagles fans here Thursday and millions like them would hold him in the same esteem. He could see them and hear them all, one by one.
You're the best, Nick.
What you did was wonderful, Nick.
Thank you so much, Nick.
Some of them were talking about his signature on a book. All of them, really, were talking about something that they and Nick Foles himself had savored much longer, and always will.