Brock Purdy captivated the hearts of football fans across the land during his unprecedented run as the 49ers starting quarterback this past season.
The seventh round rookie out of Iowa State didn’t flinch when he was thrown directly into the fire during a Week 13 matchup with the Miami Dolphins, sparking an improbable run that saw him win his first seven NFL starts.
The composure that Purdy demonstrated from day one may have taken the football world by surprise, but his teammates in the 49ers locker room saw flashes of Purdy’s innate coolness and poise long before he was ever thrust into the starting quarterback role.
To get a better idea of what Purdy was able to do to instill this level of confidence in a locker room full of talented veterans, I spoke to a few members of the team and asked them if they could recall a specific moment that sparked their belief that Purdy, and his ability to keep this teams championship hopes alive.
George Kittle told me that Purdy’s decisive decision-making during camp stood out to him, and even referenced a specific throw by Purdy during the preseason that left the All-Pro tight end feeling like this was a legitimate NFL caliber quarterback.
“The first one that really clicked to me, he did really well in training camp all the time, he didn’t throw a lot of picks. He was forcing the ball in good situations, he wasn’t scared about anything. I think the third preseason game, we played the Texans and he threw a rifle right down the middle to Ross Dwelley in between two safeties, it was an amazing catch and it was an amazing throw. But he threw that one and you’re like “Thats an NFL throw, that’s a real time play” and when you see guys make plays like that and it’s not just little dinks and dunks over here. You knew that he had something with him.
Now, there is a noteworthy distinction between seeing a guy make NFL caliber throws that make you feel like they can have a future in the league. Then, thrusting that same player into a starting role at the most important position in sports on a team that is built to win now.
Jimmy Garoppolo won numerous games with this 49ers team, and when a foot injury forced him to exit the game against the Dolphins, this star-studded 49ers squad now had its championship hopes in the hands of a player who had been taken with the last pick in the draft just seven months prior.
It’s reasonable to expect any player on that team to feel deflated given those circumstances, but Kittle detailed how Purdy immediately quelled any concerns they might have had in that moment:
“He comes in against Miami, they cover zero him first play and he delivers it and you’re just like alright this kid knows what he’s doing, he knows how to play quarterback and we can roll with this.”
That part about knowing how to play quarterback stands out, as Purdy’s best trait from the jump has arguably been his instincts at the position. Even working through the growing pains that any rookie quarterback inevitably faces, Purdy played the game with an understanding and feel for the position that is well beyond his years.
While the input from a superstar like Kittle who is catching passes from Purdy is invaluable on its own, I also wanted to hear from the guys on the defensive side of the ball, who had spent a large portion of the season facing off with Purdy throughout the week in his role as the scout team quarterback.
Was there something he showed while squaring off with the league’s number one defense that made them believe there was something special with the rookie quarterback? All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner saw that glimpse of greatness in Purdy way back in OTA’s, making it a point to emphasize how much the competitiveness Purdy displayed stood out to him:
“I had that moment in OTAs watching the way he operated and the type of competitor and player he was, and knowing that he’s played a lot of ball. I had confidence in him, but you never really know until you throw him in the fire. For anybody to say they knew all along that he would do what he did fully, nobody could have seen that. That was clearly him and a credit to the way that he worked and his poise”
A couple of things stand out here. First off, Warner noting that despite the confidence he had in Purdy early on, nobody could have predicted that he would hit the ground running the way that he did. It speaks to just how spectacular Purdy’s story in the NFL has been, and why this team was so quick to rally around him in the heart of a playoff push.
Warner was also not the only player I spoke with who placed an emphasis on crediting Purdy for his relentless work ethic. While talking to All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga, he mentioned that he saw Purdy consistently putting in the work to better himself as well as those around him.
“He’s my locker mate, he’s two down from me so I get to see him prepare everyday. He’s in there watching film and getting his body ready prepared to be the best version of himself. He was on the scout team and he got to go against us, and we saw the results towards the end of the season. Great quarterback and a great person as well.”
While the timetable for Purdy’s eventual return to the field is a little bit uncertain currently, one thing you can absolutely count on is the confidence that this roster has in the young quarterback.
It’s impossible to know for certain how the quarterback situation will shake out moving forward, but it is beyond evident that Purdy has a locker room full of players who are ready to win now that believe in him.