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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Brock Purdy reflects on rollercoaster draft, 49ers journey

Nov 22, 2023 at 12:30 PM--

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The 2022 NFL Draft brought a rollercoaster of emotions for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy. Although he realistically expected not to be selected in the first two days, he clung to hope that an NFL team would call on the third day. His patience paid off, but not without its share of drama, as he became the last overall pick at number 262.

The draft process took its toll, with Purdy and his father even taking a nap during the sixth round, tired from anxiously waiting to see his name flash on the broadcast. After waking from that nap, Purdy got a call from the 49ers.

"They said, 'Hey, we have one more pick in the seventh round and we're gonna try to take you — it's between you and a safety,'" Purdy shared with Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I said, 'Alright, sweet.'"

Purdy was excited. He and his family would have a chance to celebrate after all. That's when the quarterback looked up the 49ers' next pick, and that's when he learned it was the last of the draft.

"I was like, You've gotta be kidding me," Purdy shared.

Purdy had kept his eyes on the Niners the whole draft, aware that the team was interested in him. However, at that point, he considered the alternative. Maybe it would be more beneficial to be an undrafted free agent, allowing him to choose his destination.

A year earlier, the 49ers had used the No. 3 overall pick to add a quarterback, Trey Lance. The team was so committed to Lance that it was looking to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, who was coming off a second NFC Championship Game appearance.

Maybe joining the 49ers wasn't ideal for the young quarterback looking to make his mark at the next level. Plus, being the last pick in the draft wouldn't help, either.

"That's just the nature of how it is, being the last draft pick," Purdy shared. "If you're a top-three round kind of guy, you have a lot of chances. You have time to develop, time to learn and time to fail and learn from your failures. But as a later draft pick, the minute you slip up, there's gonna be the quick criticism from the public where they say, 'See? Exactly.'

"So, I understand it's a thing. Growing up I would see stuff on SportsCenter with quarterbacks — if they're a first-round pick, alright, they've got some time to mess up. A backup that comes in and isn't winning? It's a next-man up mentality, and where can we find a better guy to come fill the void?"

Garoppolo ended up returning to the 49ers on a one-year deal to back up Lance, burying Purdy on the depth chart. However, the coaching staff saw Purdy's potential, and opted to head into last season with three quarterbacks on the roster, fearing another team would snatch up the rookie quarterback if they tried to get him to the practice squad.

"Brock came in from Day 1, just kind of showed a grasp for our offense," general manager John Lynch said after last year's 53-man roster cutdown. "It wasn't too big. I think his experience [helped]. This is a guy who's played a lot of football. Just command and presence. He steps into that huddle, and it's his huddle. And not afraid to throw into small windows. There's just a lot to like, and he just earned that spot. ... If you have a guy like him, you don't want to expose him (to waivers). We didn't, and we like that room, the way it's constructed right now."

Purdy's opportunity came in Week 13, after the 49ers lost their second quarterback of the season. The then-rookie stepped in and led the team to a win over the red-hot Miami Dolphins. Purdy proceeded to guide the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, winning each game along the way, before suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Knowing that opportunities can be short-lived in the NFL, Purdy admits to feeling sick when doctors told him surgery was required.

Purdy said, "I just asked myself and sort of asked God, 'Why? Why take me through all this? Isn't it supposed to be a storybook ending kind of thing? We were supposed to win the Super Bowl, and I'm the last draft pick, I got thrown in — we're supposed to go all the way.' And none of it panned out like that."

However, the 49ers had already seen enough. They were committed to Purdy. So much so that they declared him the starter for the 2023 season, even as he prepared for major surgery on his throwing arm. The team later traded Lance to the Dallas Cowboys.

Entering his second year, Purdy still had his skeptics. Even after 11 weeks of regular-season play, including Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that saw the quarterback earn a rare perfect passer rating, many remain.

None of that matters inside the 49ers locker room. Throughout each start, Purdy has exhibited the poise and leadership of a seasoned veteran. As the 49ers brace for a challenging stretch, starting with a Thanksgiving night matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, Purdy's qualities as a leader are crucial.

"He's a tremendous [leader]," Lynch said this week. "Leaders, to me, you make people around you better. I think he's got that quality in his play, also in his demeanor. And he had turned the page already and was looking forward to the challenge and knowing that we got to put together a great effort in short order against the Seahawks."

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