By Eric Trent
Before there was Jake Locker, there was Doug Pederson.
Both were star quarterbacks at Ferndale High School who eventually made it to the NFL.
Locker as the eighth-overall pick in 2011, and Pederson as a rookie free agent in 1991.
“He had the ‘it’ factor,” Rod Stump, Pederson’s teammate at Ferndale, said. “He was as good as Jake Locker. Wasn’t as fast, but he was that kind of athlete.”
Pederson, who turned 50 years old Wednesday, Jan. 31, was born in Bellingham in 1968 and was a 1986 graduate from Ferndale.
During a 10-year NFL career, Pederson backed up Brett Favre during the Packers’ 1997 Super Bowl run.
Now he’s about to coach in one.
Pederson, who signed as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016, has led the team to a 13-3 regular season record this year and is seeking the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl victory.
Pederson broke through the NFL coaching ranks as an offensive quality control coach for the Eagles in 2009. He followed Andy Reid to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, serving as the offensive coordinator, before taking over the reins in Philadelphia.
Jeff Wyngaert, who grew up with Pederson in Ferndale and remains close friends with him and his family, said it’s surreal to see a friend become so successful – and so quickly.
“Nobody expected it to happen quite this fast,” Wyngaert said. “I think if you ask him, probably him included.”
Not much has changed between the two since the 1980s, when they’d spend their summers flying off tattered rope swings into the murky waters of Lake Samish.
“When you’re friends, you’re friends,” Wyngaert said. “It’s cool with this whole NFL stuff going on, but you just carry on being friends in the meantime. When we’re together we don’t talk a ton of football. We talk about other things, like his family or what’s going on back [in Ferndale].”
Donnie Finkbonner, Pederson’s childhood friend and former Ferndale running back, said he always knew Pederson was destined for something great – he just didn’t know how great.
“He was driven, a smart guy, got good grades in school,” Finkbonner said. “I always knew he’d do well. I didn’t know he’d go on and coach in the Super Bowl, obviously.
That drive was sparked by his love for the game, Finkbonner said, which Pederson cultivated at an early age by studying game film.
“I remember hanging out at his house, watching football film and critiquing ourselves,” Finkbonner said. “I think that’s carried on in his coaching career. He’s a student of the game. He has a passion for football.”
That dedication has passed on to his players in the Eagles organization and has helped develop their success as a team, Finkbonner said.
“If you’re around people who are passionate like that, it rubs off on everyone else,” Finkbonner said. “Doug is a player’s coach and players play for coaches.”
Wyngaert said Pederson’s leadership qualities were apparent as a teenager.
The winter of their senior year, Pederson took Wyngaert, who had never skied before, up to Mount Baker. Instead of bringing Wyngaert to the rope-tow to start out, he brought him to one of the most precipitous runs on the mountain.
“We had to go down this super steep hill,” Wyngaert said. “I was pissed off at him. I went down on the hill on my butt. But I learned more this way than using the rope-tow.”
Wyngaert sent Pederson a text recently telling him to enjoy the Super Bowl ride, knowing all the pressure he’s likely experiencing this week.
“And he said he was,” Wyngaert said. “So that’s good.”
The Eagles and Patriots kick off Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4, at 3:30 p.m. Pederson will try for Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl win ever and its first NFL title since 1960.