Brock Purdy has dealt with his rise to superstardom with dignity, humility and a smile on his face – but the truth is, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback is one of the most incredible success stories in NFL history leading into the Super Bowl.
« Do I think it’s time to pick a new nickname? I’m okay with Mr Irrelevant, it’s all good. »
Born just a few days before the turn of the century in December 1999, Purdy grew up in Queen Creek, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. His football journey began at Perry High School, where he became a three-star college recruit.
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While certainly not a superstar in the making, Purdy had plenty of strong attributes and progressed through the ranks to sign with Iowa State University in 2018, where he started in 46 off 48 matches and helped turn the program’s on-field results around.
Purdy ended his college tenure a three-time All-Big 12 quarterback, holding 32 school records including career pass attempts, completions, percentage, yards, and both passing (81) and total (100) touchdowns, as well as helping Iowa State to four-straight winning seasons for the first time in close to a century.
Heading into the 2022 NFL draft, Purdy was deemed as « not a very good athlete » and had a « weak arm », meaning he wasn’t on the radar for a lot of franchises – but he wasn’t alone at the quarterback position, with only one chief playmaker in Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett earning a first-round selection.
However, with his name continuing to fall down the pecking order behind the likes of Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis and Bailey Zappe, it looked grim for Purdy in his dream to reach the sport’s elite professional league.
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But with the 262nd and final pick of the draft, San Francisco selected Purdy and made him that year’s Mr Irrelevant – the name given to the final overall selection.
His role initially to act as cover for both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garropolo, despite claims from inside the 49ers organisation and head coach Kyle Shanahan labelling him as the team’s best quarterback and likely future option.
Fast-forward to Week 13 of the 2022 season and Purdy had assumed the role, with both Lance and Garropolo succumbing to injuries.
Many expected the wheels to fall off, but Purdy helped take the Niners to the NFC Championship game, where they were downed by a red-hot Eagles outfit.
But that wasn’t the end of the road for Purdy as a starting quarterback. Garropolo moved to the Raiders, Lance was traded to the Cowboys, opening the door for the Arizona product to have a full season in the role at San Francisco.
Purdy would become an MVP candidate and benefited from an all-star offense that includes Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle – but his improvement and the team’s continued rise didn’t come without criticism, namely from former league MVP Cam Newton, who described him as a « game manager ».
Despite all the criticism and all the teams that overlooked him, Purdy has taken it all in his stride and isn’t holding onto the past in any way, instead taking his first Super Bowl appearance in his stride and keeping a smile firmly fixed on his face.
« I’m not that kind of guy – I know a couple of guys that got drafted before me, but I’ve never held a grudge or anything, » he told media earlier in the week.
« I’m a believer that God has a plan for everybody and I fell last for a reason. I haven’t held any grudges against other teams, it all happened how it needed to and I’m blessed to be part of the 49ers.
« Life isn’t about you, that’s what I believe … [it’s about] being a part of something bigger than yourself. You get wrapped up in all the glory and fame and status – I feel like that’s a shallow life and that can fade away pretty quickly.
« For me, obviously we’re playing in the Super Bowl and I’m very grateful and want to win a championship for this organisation.
« But more than anything, I’m trying to serve my guys on this team well and love on them well … that’s how I view it. »
While the criticism and question marks around Purdy’s ability to lead the 49ers to a championship, he has received plenty of support across the NFL for his calmness and ability to get the ball to McCaffrey and Samuel in the right positions.
One man who knows exactly the amount of talent that Purdy possesses is his Super Bowl opponent in Patrick Mahomes, who gave a glowing endorsement and explained his true importance to the Niners offense.
« I’ve seen Brock play since he was in college and I knew how good he was. I watched the Big 12, so I watched him play a ton, » Mahomes said.
« He was a winner and he made plays happen all through his college career. When you can make it happen in college, no matter what your surroundings are, and turn around a program like he did at Iowa State, you’re gonna make it happen when you get your opportunity in the NFL. I wasn’t very surprised whenever he’s had success.
« He is a winner and a guy that goes out there and competes. I’ve always said – more than a football player, you’ve got to be someone that competes and he’s one of those. »
Purdy’s 49ers will enter Monday’s clash as the favourites, but the experience factor on the opposing bench could prove difficult for the upstart playmaker.
But if he can rise to the occasion – much like he did when San Francisco faced a 17-point deficit against the Detroit Lions to qualify for the Super Bowl – Purdy could be en route to a victory many would have deemed impossible 18 months ago.
And if he is able to go all the way and lift the Lombardi Trophy in his first full season in the league, not even Hollywood could have dreamt of writing a script this good.
And as for whether or not he plans to rain on Taylor Swift’s parade?
« Yes – I’ll leave it at that, » Purdy said with a grin.