But being the “Chosen One?” That may be impossible.
At this time last year, Jimmy Garoppolo was entering his senior year at the FCS school Eastern Illinois.
To Patriots Nation, he was unknown and unheard of, but a diamond in the rough waiting to be found.
Garoppolo was light years away from the possibility of playing in Gillette Stadium. To be precise, he was 1,054 miles (the exact distance from O’Brian Stadium, Eastern Illinois’ home field, to Gillette Stadium). He played at a small school with almost no TV exposure, and in a conference far less superior then that of the SEC or Big 10. The odds against Garoppolo were staggering.
But then again, so was a young man’s from Michigan who was drafted in the sixth round of the 1999 Draft: Tom Brady.
Following a standout junior year in which he threw for 3,823 yards and 31 touchdowns, Garoppolo was looking to shatter those impressive numbers in his final year at Eastern Illinois.
That’s exactly what he did.
In his senior year, Garoppolo threw for 5050 yards, 53 touchdown passes, and 168.3 quarterback rating, shattering all of Eastern Illinois’ single season passing records. He won the Walter Peyton Award, given to the most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, and was named the 2013–14 Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year.
Garoppolo was not only being honored for his standout play, but NFL scouts were starting to talk about the gun slinging quarterback from Tony Romo’s alma mater.
Before Romo became the face and quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Romo played his college football at Eastern Illinois. After a great career in which he broke almost every passing record, Romo went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, and was eventually signed as undrafted free agent by the Cowboys.
The rest is history.
As Garoppolo’s strong senior season progressed, more and more NFL Scouts began to watch his tape. The more they watched, the more they liked, and the more they started to look back at the Tony Romo tape.
Romo and Garoppolo have many similarities. Besides playing for the same school, Garoppolo has a rapidly quick release along with a surprisingly shifty array of moves to get outside the pocket, which is exactly what made Romo a star in the NFL.
After a strong performance at the East-West Shrine game, Garoppolo earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. In front NFL scouts from all 32 teams, Garoppolo showed that his talents are no joke. He outplayed heavily anticipated quarterbacks Derek Carr, Tajh Boyd, and Logan Thomas. After the game, there was quite chatter that Garoppolo could be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the draft.
With momentum building towards the NFL Draft, Garoppolo continued to impress at the NFL Combine and his pro day. Almost every team in desperate need of a quarterback was now showing serious interest in the guy who never received an offer from an FBS school.
Back in New England, Patriots owner Robert Craft and Head Coach Bill Belichick had quietly been facing a serious dilemma. Tom Brady is 37, and he isn’t getting any younger.
Although Brady still has four more years left on his contract, the window of opportunity in the NFL can open and close instantaneously.
In Belichick’s era, the Patriots had never taken a quarterback earlier than the fourth round until they chose Ryan Mallett in the 2011 draft.
When they took Mallett in 2011, they knew that they were banking on a quarterback with raw skills on the field and troubled past off the field.
Mallett, who while at Arkansas was at one point considered a top five pick, is your typical gun slinging quarterback. He has great arm strength, loves to throw the deep ball, and can get the ball out of his hands relatively quickly. But besides his off-field issues, which include an arrest for public intoxication in 2009, Mallett showed irritability and uneasiness when under pressure in the pocket, which dropped his stock significantly.
He eventually fell to the 72nd pick, where the Patriots drafted him in the hope that he may someday be the air apparent to Tom Brady.
Three years later, it seems like those plans have fallen flat. Mallett has never started a game in his NFL career, and has only played in four games total (all of which came during the 2012 season). Rumors continue to swirl that Mallett will either be released or traded before the beginning of the 2014 NFL season, leaving the Patriots questioning their future after Tom Brady.
Days leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft, speculation was growing that the Patriots would take Johnny Manziel if he were still available at No. 29.
But that would obviously not be the case.
On day two, the Patriots made a shocking move. With the 62 overall pick, the Patriots selected Jimmy Garoppolo.
With the Garoppolo pick, the Patriots shattered expectations and essentially hand picked Garoppolo to one day become the successor to the Patriots’ legend and future Hall-of-Famer.
Is Garoppolo the “Chosen One?”
The similarities between Garoppolo and Brady are staggering. Not only with the on-field mechanics, but the off-field personality as well.
Garoppolo has been praised for his leadership ability, and just like Brady, was on the outside looking in when it came to his fellow quarterback draft-mates.
I like Garoppolo. I don’t know much about him, but I like what he brings to the table. His rapid release will be instrumental in his transition to the NFL. Although he doesn’t have elite arm strength, neither did Brady when he first entered the NFL back in 1999.
He seems like a levelheaded person and most importantly, a player with a chip on his shoulders.
Boston is a blue-collar town, and that’s exactly what Jimmy Garoppolo is all about: a hard-working player who will embrace the chance to learn from one of the all-time greats.
Jimmy Garoppolo may not have been the quarterback everyone had hoped the Patriots would’ve chosen in this year’s draft, but think back to 2004 when the Green Bay Packers took Aaron Rodgers with the No. 24 pick. They hated the pick then. Do they still hate it now?
You may not be able to pronounce his last name today, but three years from now don’t be surprised if you know a little bit too much about Jimmy Garoppolo.