This was love at first sight for the Eagles, and it evolved into a burning passion to land the little-known quarterback from the far-away place.
That mission was finally accomplished Thursday night when the Eagles used the second overall pick on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz.
Howie Roseman, the team's executive vice president of football operations, and Doug Pederson, the team's rookie head coach, said the Eagles would have made the trade with the Cleveland Browns to get the second pick even if Cal's Jared Goff had been the prize at the end. But they also admitted that Wentz was always the object of their desire.
"Real excited to get Carson Wentz, the player that all along we were targeting," Roseman said a few minutes after one of the least suspenseful draft selections in franchise history was announced from Chicago. "He was the top player on our board."
This love story started in January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., when the 6-foot-6, 231-pound quarterback impressed the Eagles and plenty of other NFL scouts against a higher level of competition than he saw during his college career. For the Eagles, it continued at the scouting combine in Indianapolis and then during a dinner out in Fargo, N.D.
It was not just Wentz the football player that was winning them over, either.
"From the first time we met him at the Senior Bowl he was an incredibly impressive guy," Roseman said. "His presence when he walks in the room, when he talks to you not only about football but about life. And then when you watch him interact with people. He walks in the restaurant and the impression people have."
Roseman told a story about how he stepped out of the restaurant for a second and then overheard a conversation between the restaurant manager and hostess.
"Carson is the greatest guy," one said to the other. "He's always so humble, and he's always so appreciative of all of us here."
"That's the kind of kid he is," Roseman said. "Just excited for our fans and our team to see why we brought him here."
They did, of course, like the quarterback part, too. Wentz's winning resume - he went 20-3 and won two FCS championships at North Dakota State - was impressive even if the competition was not the highest in the land.
"He's extremely mature," Roseman said. "He's got incredible grit and fortitude, and he fits into this city. He's a blue-collar quarterback. He'll be embraced for his passion and his work ethic and his knowledge of his game."
Perhaps, but Roseman has been around Philadelphia long enough to know that grit, fortitude and all the other blue-collar qualities rank a distant second to winning in this town. If and when Wentz proves capable of leading the Eagles to the playoffs on a consistent basis, then and only then will he truly be embraced. Of course, even that can be complicated if Donovan McNabb is the example.
The Eagles, of course, have been accused of trying to recreate 1999 when former coach Andy Reid signed Pederson as a free agent from Green Bay before drafting McNabb with the second overall pick. Pederson opened that season as the Eagles' starter while McNabb sat and learned. The next decade worked out pretty well for the franchise as the Eagles made eight playoff appearances, including five in the NFC championship game.
Reid was always careful not to compare McNabb to Brett Favre, but he often mentioned his former pupil with the Green Bay Packers when mentoring a young McNabb with the Eagles. Pederson, after the Eagles selected Wentz Thursday, made the bold comparison between Favre and his newest quarterback.
"A little bit of Brett Favre, honestly," Pederson said. "He's got that mentality. He's got that aggressiveness that Brett had, and those are some of the skill sets that I see in Carson. That aggression, that ability to throw the ball down the field. Listen, I love quarterbacks that are willing to take a chance, take a calculated risk down the field. Favre was that way, and I see a lot of the same characteristics in Carson."
Wentz, in a conference call from Chicago, said he was a huge fan of Favre's growing up, but he also wisely admitted that he is a long way from being in that class of quarterback.
Lots of hurdles await Wentz.
"Obviously he needs to learn the system," Pederson said. "Secondly, he needs to learn our guys, learn our talent, learn the positions and get to know the guys. . . . And the biggest thing is he just has to be patient."
It's not ideal that he is also stepping into a quarterback controversy on his first day with the Eagles because of starting quarterback Sam Bradford's demand to be traded and boycott of offseason workouts. Wentz can still learn plenty from Chase Daniel, who has an advanced degree in Pederson's offensive system even though he has rarely had a chance to put it into practice on the field.
The Eagles are confident that Wentz will be a quick study. Roseman and Pederson pointed to a bunch of reasons why.
"Doug talked about the intangibles," Roseman said. "The rare intangibles. A 40 test score [on the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test], valedictorian of his high school class, never got a B, so you add that with his work ethic and his rare physical skills."
What you get is a love affair between the team and its new quarterback. Time and performance will tell if the Eagles' fans fall in love with Carson Wentz, too. We do know that they tend to grade on a difficult curve.