BOSTON (CBS) — Jimmy Garoppolo is well on his way to becoming one of the brightest stars in the NFL.
But as a young quarterback going about his business backing up an all-time great, he was always quiet during his time in New England. He had the GOAT in Tom Brady ahead of him, and he didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers as he learned his way in the pros.
While he remained mostly silent on the outside, Garoppolo’s confidence was always screaming out on the inside. He wanted to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and even if he was in the shadow of a future Hall of Famer, he always believed that he had what it took to unseat the all-time great on the Patriots’ depth chart.
“I’ve always had that mindset,” Garoppolo told Joon Lee of Bleacher Report in a fascinating profile of the new face of the San Francisco 49ers. “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.”
As Lee shows throughout the article, that quiet confidence is nothing new for Garoppolo.
“Even when I was a little kid, my brothers, whenever we would play, I would literally always think I was going to win. I wouldn’t, but I would always think that. It’s like when I go to New England, when I first got there, I thought in my head, ‘I’m better than this dude.’”
Of course, that’s not something he would ever say out loud, especially not in earshot of No. 12.
“I’m not stupid. You have to pick your battles, but I had belief in myself that I could do certain things, and it’s always worked out pretty well. It will always be in me, that drive that comes from my dad telling me that someone is always working harder, that I’m always in last place and I need to catch up to someone else,” Garoppolo explained.
After the Patriots drafted Garoppolo in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he spent his first days in New England soaking up everything he could from Brady, all while trying to stay out of his way.
“I was going to watch and literally absorb everything I could from him without being an annoyance,” he told Lee. “I didn’t want to ask a ton of questions. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. You have to play the politics a little bit.”
Brady put up some of his best numbers with Garoppolo behind him on the depth chart, and many believe it was the Patriots drafting Garoppolo that gave Brady some added motivation to be even better. While Garoppolo may not have posed much of a threat to Brady’s status at first, the two certainly had a competitive relationship. It was highlighted by the bucket game, where they’d each try to throw a football into a trash can at the back of the end zone.
Neither wanted to lose to the other, so someone would walk away disappointed every day.
“There would be days where one of us would win and you wouldn’t talk to the other for a little while,” explained Garoppolo. “We’d be fine the next day, but it was one of the best things for me. We would push each other and we got two Super Bowls out of it.
“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,” he continued. “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.”
After spending three-plus years behind Brady, Garoppolo is now getting his chance to shine for the 49ers. Though he’s still the same level-headed Jimmy Garoppolo despite the star status, giant paycheck and starting job, his quiet confidence is now getting a lot louder.