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As part of their series on the “B/R Power 50,” Bleacher Report got the first extended interview with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo since Garoppolo entered the NFL in 2014, and of course, there was a lot of talk about Garoppolo’s relationship with Tom Brady.
Garoppolo was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round, and was immediately Brady’s backup, but given that the Patriots had never drafted a quarterback as high as they had selected Garoppolo (he was taken 62nd overall) during Bill Belichick’s long tenure with the team, he was also seen as Brady’s successor.
But last October, with Brady still playing at an MVP level and Garoppolo coming up on the end of his rookie contract, New England traded Garoppolo to San Francisco for a second-round pick; Belichick had a better trade offer from the Cleveland Browns, but felt the 49ers would be a better situation for Garoppolo.
While he was with the Patriots, Garoppolo said precious little, save for the two games he was the starter when Brady was serving his suspension for deflate-gate; then, Garoppolo did the customary weekly news conference. Backup quarterbacks in New England are to be seen, not heard.
‘I had belief in myself’
The story, of course, chronicles Garoppolo’s rise, from his days as a youth football player when he turned down the opportunity to play quarterback because one of his best friends at the time, Dan Lowry, was the quarterback and didn’t want to take Lowry’s job.
Garoppolo didn’t become a quarterback until his junior year of high school, and ended up at FCS Eastern Illinois on the recommendation of private coach Jeff Christensen. It was Christensen who showed Garoppolo video of NFL quarterbacks, wanting to break him of the long release Garoppolo had thanks to his time as a baseball player. Garoppolo gravitated toward the film of Brady.
As fate had it, on the night of the second round of the 2014 draft, the Patriots selected Garoppolo, and he became teammates with the man he’d been studying for years. Garoppolo told writer Joon Lee he wanted to stay out of Brady’s way, absorbing whatever he could “without being an annoyance.”
But unseating Brady became Garoppolo’s motivation.
“I always had that mindset,” Garoppolo said. “I knew that [Brady] was better than me in my first day in the NFL. Naturally, you’re the rookie and he’s the veteran, but you have to have that mindset, that you want to be the starter.”
The third of four boys, Garoppolo said that as a kid, whenever he was playing against his brothers, he always believed he’d win. It didn’t always happen, but he always believed he’d win. It was the same with Brady.
“When I first got [to New England], I thought in my head, ‘I’m better than this dude.'”
Lee pressed him on the notion several times, that Garoppolo really believes he’s better than the quarterback that’s won five Super Bowls, been to eight, and is regarded by many as the greatest quarterback in the history of the league.
“It was always a quiet confidence. I would never speak that,” Garoppolo said.
‘We got along, but there were times we wanted to kill each other’
While Garoppolo said he tried to stay out of Brady’s way, the two of course spent a lot of time together at the team facility, in meetings and on the practice field. In recent years, Patriots’ quarterbacks would occasionally play the “bucket game,” trying to get passes into a trash can in the corner of the end zone from roughly 20 yards away.
Both intensely competitive, the game would lead to the two not talking to each other for a little bit, but Garoppolo said all would be fine the next day.
As Garoppolo notes, they pushed each other. And Brady certainly was a beneficiary: not that he’s ever been a slouch, but Brady’s been perhaps playing some of the best football of his career in recent seasons, despite his advanced (for football) age.
“The competitiveness between the two of us was very similar. If I’m playing my best friend in one-on-one basketball, if we are both into it, by the end, we are going to hate each other,” Garoppolo said. “That’s how it is. All the good competitors have that. We got along, but there were always times where we wanted to kill each other. It was a healthy, competitive relationship.”
Is Garoppolo the new Vincent Chase?
Just as there’s a lot of talk about Garoppolo the player, there’s also a lot about Garoppolo the matinee idol (His Patriots teammates once had his name placard over his locker stall changed to “Prince Aladdin,” because Garoppolo does bear a resemblance to the Disney hero. But once media saw the joke, it was taken down).
Garoppolo used to watch the HBO hit “Entourage,” with his roommate at Eastern Illinois, and now Garoppolo’s crew are realizing that they have become Turtle and Eric and Johnny Drama, the guys along for the ride as Vincent Chase, or in their case, Garoppolo, rises to stardom.
Earlier this year, Garoppolo and his crew reunited in Las Vegas, and fans were lined up for selfies with Garoppolo. Garoppolo passed, because he knew that 10 would become 20 would become 200. But at a nightclub, rapper Lil Uzi Vert performed one song on the stage and the rest of his set on top of the table Garoppolo and crew were sitting at.
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