The fallout of Deflategate has certainly brought its misfortunes to Tom Brady but, for Patriots 2nd string quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, it has proven the chance of a lifetime. The 24 year old from Arlington Heights, Illinois is set to play in the Patriots’ first four games this season with only 6 NFL games and 27 passes to his name.
Born to Tony and Denise Garoppolo and brother to Mike (who played football at Western Illinois), James Garoppolo was instantly deemed an “Italian Stallion” by the media when he was drafted as a rookie last year. While the term might conjure up images of “The Jersey Shore” complete with guido slang, muscle-heads and tanning beds, Garoppolo has proven himself anything but: An intelligent, respectful and even modest young man, Garoppolo graciously accepted an opportunity to begin his NFL career quietly studying, up close, the finessed skill of Brady (a man the rookie deems his idol).
But the question is, will all that studying pay off?
“He is a very hard worker, a very fine man, but until the bullets are flying and you’re out there, no one knows,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft told CBS Sports. “Think about how many of these first-round picks, even, don’t make it.”
True as this might be, Garoppolo’s career leading up to the Patriots reveals a steady growth and a capacity to pull through in the spotlight. As a standout quarterback and punter at Rolling Meadows High School, he earned himself a place at Eastern Illinois. And, while his life as a Panther may have started off slow to say the least (they finished 4-15 in his first season there), Garoppolo improved over the years, ultimately throwing for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns as a senior, breaking the school record for career pass completions (previously held by Tony Romo).
Due to this stellar final season, Garoppolo was named Ohio Valley Conference Male Athlete of the Year, FCS National Offensive Player of the Year, and he received the Walter Payton Award, awarded to the top FCS player. He completed his Panther career with 13,089 yards of total offense and 118 touchdowns, placing 10th and 6th, respectively, on the FCS all-time lists.
From Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo was picked up by the Patriots in the second round of the 2014 draft; and, during his first season with them, he appeared in just six games, completing 19 of 27 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown (which came on the heels of a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in Week 4, a game that was, perhaps, Brady’s weakest career performance to date).
Looking ahead, Garoppolo will make his first NFL regular-season start on September 9th when the Patriots go against the Steelers in Week 1. And, by Week 4, he will wrap things up with an opportunity to face-off against Romo, the man whose record he beat a few years back.
Four games that will reveal to football fans everywhere weather or not this young player can, indeed, pull through and inherit the Brady throne someday. Considering his work ethic, love for the game and respect for his mentor, odds are he can.