Drew Brees and Nick Foles, the pride of Austin Westlake, square off in the NFL playoffs

Drew Brees and Nick Foles do not know each other very well, but they appreciate the significance of their unlikely matchup when the Saints and Philadelphia Eagles face off Saturday in an NFC wild-card game.

It’s not every year two starting quarterbacks who played at the same high school meet in the playoffs. Actually, it has been 39 years since it happened, when Woodlawn-Shreveport product Terry Bradshaw beat the man who succeeded him at Woodlawn, Buffalo’s Joe Ferguson, 32-14 en route to his first Super Bowl ring with Pittsburgh.

Part of an NFL-high seven starting quarterback contingent from Texas, Brees and Foles attended Austin Westlake High 10 years apart. Brees led the school to a state championship in 1996. Foles followed with a runner-up result in 2006 while breaking all of Brees’ passing records.

It’s not exactly Peyton Manning versus Eli Manning, the all-Newman matchup of brothers that would create a sensory overload if they ever met in a Super Bowl. The age difference between Brees and Foles precludes a close connection, but not the pride they have in their high school.

“I met him one time, and it was last year when we played Philly on Monday night,” Brees said. “Just pregame, but obviously I heard a lot about him in high school at Westlake. I follow a lot of guys who leave Westlake and go on.”

None of them accomplished what Foles, a second-year pro, managed this season. After taking over for an injured Michael Vick in the second quarter in Week 5 against the New York Giants, he finished with the best touchdown to interception ratio (27/2) in NFL history and the highest quarterback rating this year (119.2). The Eagles (10-6) went 8-2 in his 10 starts, winning the NFC East by two games and earning the right to host the Saints (11-5) in the opening round of the playoffs.

Those numbers compare favorably with what turned into another prolific season for Brees, who threw for more than 5,000 yards for the fourth time in his career, three more than any other player.

“When you look at what he (Foles) has done, it’s been pretty impressive, especially for such a young player,” Brees said. “He’s mature beyond his years. I wouldn’t say I’m all that surprised just because he’s a Westlake guy, but man, he’s played great.”

The two share more than their high school heritage. Both wear No. 9. Neither was recruited out of high school by big programs in Texas, with Brees ending up at Purdue and Foles signing with Michigan State (after committing to Arizona State) and transferring to Arizona after one season.

Even more than Brees, who was a second-round pick in the 2001 draft because of his diminutive size (6-feet-1), Foles was not considered a sure-fire NFL starter coming out of college. He had the size NFL scouts love (6-feet-6, 243 pounds), but he lasted until the third round after going 15-18 as a starter and throwing 33 interceptions.

He never left the bench when the Eagles and Saints played last year, watching as Vick struggled in a 28-13 loss. The most memorable part of that night for him was his short conversation with Brees.

“(Brees) was preparing, and you could tell he had a routine in his warm-up,” Foles said. ‘I was just able to say hi. He knew I went to Westlake, so it was just a quick conversation to say, ‘Hi, nice to meet you.’ He was ready to play. There’s a lot going on before the game, so it’s hard to really get into that much of a conversation. But it was good to finally meet him. It had been a long time.”

Foles heard plenty about the legend of Brees when he was at Westlake. The school has reached state championship games a few times since Brees left, including Foles’ senior year, but it has not won another title.

“Drew is a tremendous player,” Foles said. “He’s a guy that I looked up to as a kid. He’s a great role model for kids, grown-ups, whoever you are. I think just how he is as a player and as a person — what he does in the community, what he’s done for Louisiana and New Orleans and across the nation.

“You want to watch the guys that are great at this game and great at their profession. You want to learn from them, so he’s a guy I’ve watched on film and just watched what he’s done, and I have a lot of respect for him as a player and a person.”