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April 28, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (STATS) - There wasn't exactly the Hollywood beginning to Carson Wentz's NFL career, but there could be such a storyline by the end.

Being the highest-drafted quarterback from a non-FBS program was pretty magical, though - the Philadelphia Eagles took Wentz out of FCS national champion North Dakota State with the No. 2 overall pick of the draft Thursday night in Chicago.

Wentz will still have a lot of green in his uniform and his gritty, Rocky-like work ethic seems a little more appropriate in Philadelphia than Los Angeles, which chose California quarterback Jared Goff with the first pick. He'll even wear his old NDSU No. 11 - the same number worn by Norm Van Brocklin, the last quarterback to lead the Eagles to an NFL championship in 1960.

"The chips fell where they may tonight and I'm excited to be an Eagle and I'm ready to go to work," Wentz said.

He already sees a lot of himself in a fan base starved for a Super Bowl.

"Passionate and they want to win," he said. "That's who I am as well."

Wentz surpassed the late Steve McNair of Alcorn State - the Houston Oilers' No. 3 overall pick in 1995 - as the highest non-FBS quarterback selected in the first round. The only others since 1979 (after Division I split) were Morehead State's Phil Simms (New York Giants, No. 7 in 1979), UC Davis' Ken O'Brien (New York Jets, No. 24 in 1983) and Delaware's Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens, No. 18 in 2008).

In fact, no FCS player had been taken in the first round since Flacco. But the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Wentz is hardly the typical small-school player.

"A little bit of Brett Favre," Eagles first-year coach Doug Pederson said. "He's got that mentality, he's got that aggressiveness. I love a quarterback that is willing to take a calculated risk downfield. Favre was that way. I see a lot of that in Carson."

Said Wentz: "It's pretty unbelievable hearing that."

The starting quarterback on North Dakota State's two most recent national championship teams (out of a record five straight), Wentz played in a pro-style offense - which is favored by NFL teams over the many spread offenses in college football - and passed for 5,115 yards and 45 touchdowns in his career, mostly over his junior and senior seasons.

He stands tall in the pocket to make accurate passes yet also has good mobility. He also won over NFL executives, coaches and scouts during the draft process with his leadership and intelligence as much as his strong skill set.

"He's extremely mature, he's got incredible grit and fortitude," said Howie Roseman, the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations. "He fits into this city."

While the Eagles coveted a franchise quarterback in the draft, last month they re-signed last year's starter, Sam Bradford, to a two-year contract, before Pederson enticed free agent Chase Daniel, whom he worked with in Kansas City, to sign a three-year deal. Wentz is expected to be groomed toward the starter's role, although the process would be accelerated if the Eagles trade Bradford, who requested one after the they obtained the No. 2 pick from the Cleveland Browns last week.

"For one, I can say I'm going to put a lot of expectations on myself," Wentz said. "I hold myself to a high standard. And I just have to block out all the noise and just go play ball. I'm confident in myself that it will all work as it's supposed to."

No, it wasn't a Hollywood beginning to Wentz's NFL career. Almost, but not quite, because the Rams looked hard at him.

But the Wentz story is a pretty incredible script, and there's plenty of potential for a Hollywood ending.

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