CHICAGO - Last week, with eight days remaining in what Carson Wentz likes to call "the longest job interview I've ever had, and probably that most people ever had," a welcome bit of clarity arrived.
Wentz was working out in Fargo, N.D., when he got a text from agent Ryan Tollner: The Eagles had just traded with the Browns, moving into the second position in Thursday's first round of the NFL draft in order to grab a quarterback, and with the Los Angeles Rams apparently settled on Cal's Jared Goff in the No. 1 spot, that quarterback would be Wentz.
Wentz professes to not know for sure that he's going to be trying on an Eagles cap when commissioner Roger Goodell announces their selection, sometime between 8 p.m. and 8:20, depending on how long the Birds and the Rams take to hand in their cards. He said he hasn't spoken to anyone from the team since the trade. But his agent group also represents Goff, and many observers feel the teams have made their preferences known privately, while deferring publicly to the league's desire to maintain the televised "suspense."
"It was exciting" to hear of the deal, Wentz said Wednesday after a group of top prospects finished an NFL "Play 60" event with Chicago-area school kids, on a steely, blustery morning in Grant Park, the wind slicing in off nearby Lake Michigan. "Obviously, you're aware of what the teams kind of need, a little bit, my agents kind of filled me in."
It will be much more exciting, Wentz said, to know his future for sure Thursday evening, and to be able to celebrate it with both sets of parents on hand (his father and mother divorced, then both remarried), two siblings, a few friends who came along, and a grandmother.
"It's been fun, but it's just been a lot of anxiousness, a lot of buildup to this day. We're in limbo. All us prospects are in limbo, have no idea where our careers are headed, just ready to find out," Wentz said.
"Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to do this, wanted to play in the NFL," he said. "Heck, my mom showed me something - when I was like in the second or third grade, I wrote, 'I want to be in the NFL.' It's pretty cool to see those dreams about to become reality, but you know, it's just a starting point."
For some fans, Wentz was an unknown before the draft process kicked into gear. He said he doesn't view himself as some sort of overnight sensation.
"I've always believed in myself to be right there at the top. Obviously, for some people, it took longer to figure that out, and that kinda just is what it is," he said.
Wentz called the 15 1/2 weeks since he came back from a broken wrist to lead the Bison to their fifth successive Football Championship Subdivision title "a whirlwind."
"Leading up to the Senior Bowl, I always had something to look forward to. Then I was looking forward to the Combine. Then it was pro day. Ever since pro day ended, man, it's just been a long, anxious time," Wentz said. "I don't even have a playbook right now. I want to go learn. I want to watch film. I can only watch so much film without knowing what the heck's going on, terminologywise. It's exciting and it's been a long buildup, so we'll see what happens."
Wentz said he wasn't really surprised by the Eagles' move. They did, after all, fly out to Fargo, team chairman Jeffery Lurie in tow, for that much-publicized dinner from which Eagles fan John Pisula tweeted photos.
Asked about that evening, Wentz said he recalled that the restaurant was nice, and that "it was on Twitter, about 10 minutes in."
This was Wentz's introduction to Philly fandom.
"I know they're diehards, and I know they want to win," he said. "If that's where it is, I'll make the most of it, I'll embrace it."
Someone asked about current starting quarterback Sam Bradford asking to be traded.
"I don't really know what to make of that," Wentz said. "We'll see what happens."
The Eagles' plan in wanting to keep Bradford for at least a year is to give Wentz plenty of time to adjust to the NFL. He started just 23 college games, and didn't play at the highest level of competition.
"As a competitor, you want to get on the field as soon as you can," he said. "But obviously, you want to do what's best for your career and everything. That's not up to me to decide. I'm going to go in there and compete, show what I can do, earn the respect of my teammates and everything, (then) coaches will decide when they feel I'm ready."
Now, it seems possible Bradford won't be the starter, that backup Chase Daniel could be the only barrier between Wentz and the field. Could he be ready right away?
"Obviously, you've got to go in and learn. It's a process, it's a long offseason," he said. "But I'll tell you what - I'm excited, I'm ready to go learn, and we'll see how quickly I'm ready."
Wentz, 6-5, 237, cuts an imposing figure close up. You can't tell from interviewing him whether he'll be able to read defenses well enough not to throw crucial interceptions, but you can see that he projects confidence and calm.
"He has great potential with his size and athleticism, extending plays," NFL Network analyst and Super Bowl-winning QB Kurt Warner said Wednesday. "He reminds me a lot of Big Ben (Roethlisberger), coming out of (Miami of) Ohio. There's a lot of potential there." Warner also warned that potential isn't always realized, and that right now he favors Goff. "I say that with the disclaimer that many people I've talked to say Carson is ahead from a mental standpoint."
At the same NFL Network media luncheon, lead draft analyst Mike Mayock said: "I'm a Wentz guy. If it was me, I'd take Wentz (first) . . . Either way, they're both franchise quarterbacks."
Countering Wentz's relative lack of experience and the lower level of competition is the fact that the North Dakota State offense is much more like what the NFL does than most collegiate setups these days. Wentz has worked from under center, has called protections.
He was asked how it went when the Eagles asked him to go up to the white board and dissect plays.
"Every team's done stuff like that with me, and it's all similar. It has a different name . . . most of the reads, progressions, concepts, schemes, you name it, protections - it's all very similar," he said. "I'm thinking the transition will go a lot more smoothly for me than most."
It seems Wentz has heard a lot about pressure and huge, hungry fan bases, not just from his talks with the Eagles, but also from other prospective NFL employers. It's starting to make his bright orange beard bristle just a bit.
Wentz wrote a piece for The Players' Tribune recently about being from North Dakota, about toughness. He reiterated a bit of that Wednesday. Wentz said several ideas were broached when he was asked to write the essay, but "I liked that one - talking about North Dakota. Nothing's handed to you in North Dakota. You earn what you get. You work for it."
Is he ready for harsh assessments from Philly fans?
"Everyone talks about that. 'Cause everyone wants to (disparage) where I'm coming from. Fargo, they always say, is not the same.
"For one, we have some passionate fans in Fargo, but, two, I'm ready for it. Everyone talks about, can you handle the adjustment to city life, all that stuff - it's just football. Don't make it bigger than it needs to be. Block out all the noise and just go win football games."
Wentz gave a similar answer when asked about the expectations invested in a quarterback drafted first or second overall.
"You gotta block out that noise," he said. "If anyone wants to put extra pressure on me, I won't let that bother me, I'll just play ball."
The hours are ticking down now, until he finally gets to lock in on where that will be.