Eagles' Nate Sudfeld wants to make a difference, on and off the field
Backup quarterback devotes some offseason time to his family's global charity effort.
Growing up as a quarterback in California with aspirations to play Division I college football, and eventually call signals in the NFL, can make the demands of the sport all-encompassing.
Nate Sudfeld, the Eagles' backup to Nick Foles, didn't exactly grow up that way, in the Modesto area. Nate is a grandson of Bob Pagett, founder of Assist International, a humanitarian foundation that touts more than 500 projects in more than 65 countries. Ralph Sudfeld, Nate's father, currently serves as president and CEO. Charity Navigator gives the organization its highest, four-star rating, and a 91.45 score on a 100-point scale.
From a young age, Nate and his four siblings were encouraged to think globally.
"Whenever any of the [Pagett] grandchildren turned 13, they were given a suitcase and an opportunity to go to any country that [the foundation] had a project in," Ralph Sudfeld said Thursday. "As grandparents, they would want to expose their grandchildren to these experiences and needs around the world.
"Nate's been to Romania, he's been to Africa several times.Their lives get impacted in such a powerful way. They don't just sit, and kinda walk as tourists, they roll up their sleeves and they get involved in the projects that we're doing."
Nate Sudfeld, Indiana's all-time leader in passing yards (7,879) and touchdowns (61), didn't make that early trip a one-time thing. He and his older brother Zach, a former tight end for the Patriots and Jets, have taken a strong interest in the charity's work with orphans in Uganda.
"We have a [family] saying — they kind of get ruined for the ordinary," Ralph Sudfeld said. "They go out and they see what's going on in the world, and it impacts everything that they do. One of the things about Nate is that it really impacted him in a big way. He, on his own, wants to make a difference."
Both of Nate's older brothers, Zach and his twin Matt, work for the foundation now, Matt , a former wide receiver at Brown, is program manager.
"I've gone to Uganda three times, and that's been amazing. I'm going again this March … I kind of have a heart for that now," Nate Sudfeld said.
"This last trip, we did a sports camp at a school that we helped partner to build. Built a basketball and volleyball court, taught 'em how to throw a football a little bit, played a little soccer, did stuff like that."
Ralph Sudfeld added that after they built the courts, they organized practices, only to have players show up either in flip-flops or bare feet. Athletic shoe-buying quickly was added to the project.
"Physically and athletically, these kids have it all; they just don't have the opportunity," Ralph Sudfeld said.
Nate hopes to draw Eagles teammates to the cause. He was drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round in 2016, and he became friends last year with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has donated money to Assist International, which Ralph Sudfeld said will establish an orphan home in the name of Cousins and his wife, Julie Hampton.
"It's really rewarding work, and we've been able to see a lot of good stuff come from it," Nate said.
Ralph Sudfeld said none of his kids got any sort of push toward team sports. He and his wife, Michelle, Bob Pagett's daughter, who also works with the foundation now, were involved in Assemblies of God ministries.
"If they showed interest in something, we tried to help them … But we were never those parents who were out there hounding our kids to get up and get out there to practice," he said. "They loved it. They drove the agenda … You really see the difference between the parents driving the agenda or something that's stirring inside of the kid and the parents are facilitators."
Ralph Sudfeld said Nate "knew early on — he's a goal-setter, he knew what he wanted to do … He went into the [Modesto Christian School] principal's office, he sat down and he said: 'Here's what I want to do. I want to be able to commit the end of my junior year, I want to graduate in December, I want to be able to get into a college in January, I want to be able to compete in the fall.' … He set those goals, and he's been able to accomplish every goal he's set for himself."
Eagles fans don't know much about Sudfeld, who is 6-foot-6, 227 pounds, with a powerful arm; the Redskins kept him on the roster but inactive all last season. They waived him just before this season, and hoped to stick him on their practice squad, but the Eagles offered Nate his full, regular NFL salary of $540,00. Then they promoted him to the 53-man roster when the Indianapolis Colts wanted to sign him, after they placed Andrew Luck on injured reserve.
But the Eagles still haven't put him in a game, something head coach Doug Pederson said he hopes will happen either this week against Oakland or in the final regular-season game, against Dallas.
"Coming out, I was aware of these coaches and had admired them from afar," Nate said. He said he had a formal interview with the Eagles at the NFL Scouting Combine, before they knew they were going to be able to move up in the first round of the draft to take Carson Wentz.
"They texted me after they drafted Carson, saying 'good luck,' " Sudfeld said. "Since I've been here, I've wanted to stay here. I see the value. Obviously this coaching staff, this whole organization, top to bottom, this locker room is incredible. We're having a great season, and this quarterback room has been awesome."
Moving up from third quarterback to backup in the wake of Wentz's knee injury, Sudfeld got more full-squad practice work last week than before, and offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he was "turning heads in practice."
"I think he's an accurate passer. I think he's really good fundamentally, he has really good mechanics," Reich said. "I think he's a good decision-maker."
Pederson expanded on that.
"Just seeing him really for the first time in a practice setting … anticipation, ball location, the accuracy and timing of throws, the way he moves in the pocket, and the subtle movements," Pederson said.
With Nate's NFL career trending upward, Ralph Sudfeld said there is no rush for his youngest son to follow his brothers' lead and get more deeply immersed in Assist International. He said Nate plans to play in the NFL a long time, and "he accomplishes the things he wants to do."
"I don't know if I want to [work] fulltime there, but definitely I want to go on trips and volunteer and donate money and continue to help in some of the relief efforts," Nate said. "Get some teammates to come with ."