Brock Purdy: From Mr. Irrelevant to 49ers Quarterback—A Lesson In True Belief
Brock Purdy started the football season in the third string for the San Francisco 49ers. Now he’s their starting quarterback. Here’s how 2022’s Mr. Irrelevant is leading the 49ers to victory.
It’s not every day that the understudy ends up the star of the show, but that’s exactly what’s happened during this NFL season. Through a series of accidents Brock Purdy, also known as last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, has been launched from the third string of the 49ers to their starting quarterback.
People understandably wondered how the 23-year-old would handle his new position on the team, and whether he could perform under pressure. Here’s how Brock Purdy went from the 262nd 2022 draft pick to one of the most talked-about athletes in the NFL, all while never doubting himself.
Who Is Mr. Irrelevant?
Put simply, “Mr. Irrelevant” is the last college player chosen for the NFL draft each year. In 2022, there were 262 new players drafted into the NFL, Brock Purdy was the 262nd pick, making him the most recent Mr. Irrelevant.
The slightly cruel nickname was coined in connection to Irrelevant Week in 1976. Retired NFL receiver Paul Salata, who announced the last draft choice for decades, founded Irrelevant Week. Each year, Mr. Irrelevant is invited to Salata’s hometown, Newport Beach, California, for a week.
Mr. Irrelevant and his family are then treated to a gauntlet of events, such as a regatta, a trip to Disneyland, and a roast. Purdy in particular went sailing and surfing, watched a baseball game, and went on a pub crawl with fans. Irrelevant Week serves as a way to celebrate the player, give the player and his team some publicity, and to raise money for charity.
Irrelevant Week comes with enough perks that in 1979, two teams vied for the last pick of the draft. The Los Angeles Rams passed up the second-to-last pick, hoping that the Pittsburgh Steelers would take their place. The Steelers also passed, hoping the Rams would pick. Once they were forced to make their draft picks (the Steelers got the coveted last choice), Salata’s Rule was put in place. Now, teams can’t pass up their place in draft picks.
Typically, Mr. Irrelevant goes on to slowly prove himself over the first few years of his career. No Mr. Irrelevant has risen in the ranks and proved his mettle as quickly as Brock Purdy.
Brock Purdy’s Early Football Career
Prior to being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, Brock Purdy had a successful career as a quarterback at the high school and college levels. He attended Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona, where he was the quarterback of the football team starting in his sophomore year.
His younger brother, Chubba, would follow in his footsteps, also becoming a quarterback for Perry High School until he was accepted at Florida State University. His sister Whitney was also a college athlete, playing softball.
In 2018, he enrolled at Iowa State University. Purdy started playing on the Iowa State football team as the third string quarterback, behind quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland. He quickly moved up the ranks when Kempt suffered an injury and Noland failed to perform. All in all, in his freshman year he started eight games for the Iowa State Cyclones.
From there, Purdy was the starting quarterback for the team, starting all thirteen games in his sophomore year. In his junior and senior years, Purdy and running back Breece Hall (who now plays for the New York Jets) led the team to record-breaking victories. By graduation, Purdy held 32 school records.
Brock Purdy Was Drafted Last and Finished First
Despite his long record of stellar performance, somebody had to be drafted last, and in 2022, it was Brock Purdy. He had a good track record at Iowa State, but many were concerned with his strength and mobility, as well as his height – at 6’1” he’s a few inches shorter than most NFL quarterbacks.
Purdy had a good attitude about taking on the name Mr. Irrelevant, saying to NBC Sports, “I didn’t care which round or which pick I was, or if I was undrafted. I just wanted to prove to myself that I can play at this level, and I got an opportunity to play for the 49ers, so I’m very thankful.”
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Once again, Purdy was the third string quarterback, this time behind established quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garropolo. In week two of the season, in their game against the Seattle Seahawks, Lance injured his ankle.
Garropolo was now starting quarterback, and in October 2022 in their game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Purdy got his first chance to play in the fourth quarter. Then, in their game against the Miami Dolphins, Garropolo hurt his foot. Purdy had to take over mid-game, and was soon after announced as the starting quarterback for the 49ers for the rest of the season.
Brock Purdy Doesn’t Let Them Get Him Down
It’s quite remarkable to see a 23-year-old in his first professional season lead an NFL team – let alone lead it well – but Brock Purdy is rising to the challenge. Most notably, he led the 49ers to victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making Purdy the only quarterback in his NFL career start to beat Tom Brady.
Apparently when Purdy started the season, there weren’t high expectations placed on him. He was advised by previous 49ers quarterback Joe Montana to trust in his team and “just […] be the mailman – give the ball to the guys that can run.”
But according to his teammates, Purdy has taken this opportunity to prove himself and isn’t buckling under the pressure. “Being with him in the huddle, he’s poised, calm and extremely confident. He’s exactly what you would want in a quarterback. No moment is too big for him, and he makes corrections quickly,” says 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.
Since Purdy was named the starting quarterback of the team, the 49ers have averaged more points and have continued on an eleven-game winning streak. How Purdy will continue to lead the San Francisco 49ers is yet to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: he’s risen above his moniker and, in the NFL at least, has become more than relevant.
Brock Purdy is the perfect example of never giving up on your dreams and having the utmost belief in yourself. Originally chosen as a last pick, Purdy could have let that rating define him. Instead, he was thankful he could play at all and worked harder than before. Even a little draft couldn’t keep him down.
So how does he keep it together? ” I’m a faith-based guy, so that’s how I stay grounded. I don’t look at football like it’s literally everything. It’s do or die or anything like that….It’s a game and it’s my job for sure and I take it very seriously, but at the end of the day, I know that I’m not defined by the wins or losses as a person.”