Four framed photographs hang on a wall at Garret and Lauren Chachere’s house outside New Orleans.
Three are typical — one of Lauren with her sons Garrett and Jackson, the second of their son Noah and, finally, Lauren with her bridesmaids on their wedding day. The fourth is atypical. Their son Grant standing next to Nick Foles in the front office of Grant’s elementary school.
The fourth photo was taken when Grant was in sixth grade and his dad, Garret, was an assistant football coach at the University of Arizona. Foles, who will lead the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XLII on Sunday, played quarterback at the school from 2009-11.
Garret, who coached receivers for two seasons and running backs for the third, didn’t work directly with Foles, but knew him well enough. When Foles arrived in Tucson as a transfer from Michigan State, Garret had no idea what kind of person Foles was off the field.
He soon found out.
Life as the new kid
During a father-son conversation in early May 2011, Garret asked Grant how he was adjusting to his new school. As a football coach, Garret had moved his family around the country. Arizona was his eighth stop since his career began in 1992. Grant would spend a few years at each school before the family moved on to Garret’s next job.
Garret trod lightly when talking with his son, asking how Grant was adjusting and if he was making friends. Grant, nonchalantly, mentioned he had been eating lunch at school by himself.
“I was not happy with that,” said Garrett, who soon discovered his son was having trouble fitting in.
Grant, who had a stutter back then, was being picked on, teased and made fun of by his classmates. He knew it was hard for his classmates to understand him.
“People thought I was different from everybody else. … ‘Let’s go make fun of the guy that’s different,'” said Grant, now 18 and a college freshman.
In addition to his speech impediment, Grant said he was shy. Those issues, coupled with moving every few years, led to Grant having just a friend or two at school. Garret knew it was hard on Grant to keep moving schools. Just when his classmates would get to know him and his circle of friends would start to grow, the family would move.
In Tucson, Grant either ate by himself in the lunch room or in a classroom with a teacher who started looking out for him.
“I just thought it was kind of normal because I was doing that for a little while,” Grant said. “I only had maybe one or two friends. But sometimes I didn’t eat with them. I didn’t know who my true friends were. It was a big deal cause at the time, when you’re young, you see other people interacting with a bunch of people and they have a bunch of friends, and you have maybe one or two friends, maybe none at all, it’s really hard for you to process that.”
Helping his son
Garret knew something needed to be done, so he hatched a plan: He was going to have lunch with Grant at school on his birthday later that month. To make the experience even better, Garret decided to bring along one of his Arizona players. At the time, he was Arizona’s running backs coach, so he first asked one of his running backs if they’d join him but the player had a final exam and couldn’t make it.
Who he brought with him — and more importantly, who he told about his son’s situation — was a decision Garret wanted to make carefully. He had a strong relationship with Foles. Grant knew him. Why not ask the quarterback, Garret thought.
“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life.”
Grant Chachere, on his lunch with Eagles quarterback Nick Foles
This all took place at a time when when Foles’ star was shooting straight up. He threw for 3,191 yards and 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior in 2010. On top of all that, he was impossible to miss, standing 6-foot-6, with long, blond hair. He looked more like Shaggy Rogers, Grant said, than the short-haired, bespectacled Foles who has been in the spotlight all week at Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.
Garret called Foles.
When Foles answered, Garret began by saying he had a favor to ask. Details were, intentionally, held back. Foles wavered at first, saying he needed to study for an upcoming exam. Garret understood and told Foles not to worry about it. Then Foles asked what the favor was.
Garret explained everything — how Grant had a developmental disorder, how he was being bullied, how he ate lunch alone, how he planned to surprise Grant for his birthday, how he’d love it if Foles could join them.
Foles didn’t hesitate. He was in.
The big day
When Garret and Foles walked into Grant’s school that Friday, the buzz spread quickly. Autograph requests began as they waited in the front office. Teachers and administrators asked Foles to sign for their children — and for them. When they reached the cafeteria, the secret was out about Foles being at the school. But there was one problem: They couldn’t find Grant.
Everyone looked, and he was found eating lunch in a classroom with a teacher. By the time Grant and his visitors made it back to the lunch room, lunch was almost over.
“He comes out and he sees me and Nick, and so at that point, he’s kind of a little stunned,” Garret said.
Grant said: “The fact that he came to eat lunch with me really shocked me because it came out of nowhere. You wouldn’t expect it.”
When they finally were eating, Foles started to get inundated with autograph requests. He politely declined them all, explaining to the star-struck kids he was at their school to eat lunch with his friend Grant. To this day, that moment sticks out to Garret, who didn’t ask Foles to not sign. That was all Foles.
After they finished their meals, there was still time left in recess and kids were outside playing football. Grant had played a handful of times throughout the school year but on that day, he had one of the best quarterbacks in college football hanging out with him, so, of course, he was asked to play.
Foles was the all-time quarterback for both teams and with the game tied and a few minutes remaining, Foles threw a pass to the end zone. Garret called it a Hail Mary. Grant, who later was a two-year letter winner as a fullback in high school, called it a vertical route. Whichever, Foles’ pass was perfect and Grant caught it in stride for the winning touchdown.
That’s still one of the moments from that day etched in Grant’s memory.
Before Garret and Foles left, they stopped so Foles could take a picture with Grant — the one that now hangs in the Chachere’s living room.
“He’s had a special place in our family’s hearts,” Garret said of Foles. “My dad roots for him. [Grant’s] grandfather on his mom’s side roots for him.
“My wife though, that next year, she would always bake stuff for Nick or do stuff for Nick. He had a special place for us. We never talked about it again. It’s something that lasts in both of our minds as a memorable experience.”
Act of kindness bears fruit
Memorable, yes, but that day — those few hours — changed Grant’s life. He became more social and had an easier time making friends in the future.
“Him coming to eat lunch with me actually taught me that no matter who you are, doing one nice thing for somebody can change their whole life, and I really thought that throughout my whole life,” Grant said. “I always talk to people to see how their days are going. It actually changed my whole perspective on life.”
Grant, now, is thriving. He’s in his freshman year of college at New Mexico Highlands University, where his dad is an assistant football coach. He’s thinking about pursuing a career in business or marketing.
Whatever he ends up doing after college, Grant will take the lessons he learned from Foles with him.
“You can be this big star, but the way you grew up and the way you interact with people, from the way your parents saw you, really determines how you are as a person,” Grant said.
“What that really taught me was you can be whoever you want to be, but at the end of the day, it’s about your character and about the things you do for the better of the world instead of thinking about yourself.”
Two weeks ago, as the Eagles were preparing for the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Garret asked Grant if he wanted to reach out to Foles. It had been awhile since they had talked.
Through a mutual friend, Garret got Foles’ number and both Garret and Grant sent the quarterback text messages the night before the then-biggest game of his life.
In his message, Grant congratulated Foles on making the conference championship and passed along this message: “You are a great leader and you’ve always had that ability to lead because a lot of people like you, and not only do they like you, they trust you as a leader.” He finished the text by telling Foles “everybody believes in you. Your teammates believe in you. Your family believes in you.”
Grant also included a picture of the picture of them.
Foles wrote back quickly: “Thanks, Grant. That means a lot.”
There’ll be another text this weekend before the biggest game of Foles’ life, from the young man whose life changed to the man who changed it.