Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 15, 2014

McNamee: Weird seeing Garoppolo drafted

Alex McNamee
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — I feel like I’m going through puberty again.

But, rest assured, this isn’t the puberty that popular culture is used to — or the puberty you, reading this during study hall, are currently going through.

I’m asking, “Is this what you feel like all the time,” to my older brother — only, in this case, my older brother is a football powerhouse like (shameless plug) Notre Dame.

This must be what current students and alumni feel like at the bigger universities when their quarterback gets drafted by an NFL franchise, but I’ve never experienced it before.

I’m a walking taco of emotions.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s draft night story is too ironic. The New England Patriots called his name on Friday, the second night of the NFL Draft. His agents and Tom Brady’s agents are the same dudes. He said Brady is his favorite player, which I would’ve laughed at had he not told me in person a few years ago.

That’s right. I’ve talked to Garoppolo on multiple occasions. As I wrote in a previous column, I was the Eastern Illinois football beat reporter during his freshman season for the school’s student newspaper and then watched him for the next two seasons.

Now, the Boston Globe is writing stories and posting videos about him. He’s cornered by a tidal wave of cameras in Gillette Stadium, answering questions about being Tom Brady’s heir apparent.

All I can think about: Why didn’t I see it four years ago?

I would’ve moved into his apartment, gone to his classes and went to church with his parents if I knew he was going to be an NFL quarterback — anything to get the inside scoop on the greatest person to come to EIU since rap mogul Drake.

On draft night, my Facebook friends reacted in Costco bulk. Why, I asked. Probably because they feel like they’re a part of something, a wise person told me.

Of course, the answer was too clear. Garoppolo basically sucked the entire student body and alumni association into a space bag and took it with him to New York.

It’s different to note that Tony Romo, Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan are EIU alums because I’m in no way connected to them.

I hung out at the same hotspots as Garoppolo in Charleston and studied in the same library, so hearing his name called on draft night was a pretty cool feeling.

But he was picked by the Patriots to back up Tom Brady, a team and player which I strongly dislike, and to, apparently, take his place when he retires.

The immediate comparison was made: He’ll be like Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre. My response: Give me a break. By all accounts, Rodgers and Favre hated each other. Favre didn’t help Rodgers, he despised him. It was a strained student-teacher relationship that never was.

If Garoppolo is the guy, he’ll replace a Hall of Famer and, in that respect, the situations are similar, but aligning Garoppolo and Rodgers is a little crazy, right?

Remember, Rodgers was almost the number one pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since then, he has turned into the best quarterback in the league. Garoppolo was never attached to first overall discussions and nobody can tell me if he will or wont turn into the best quarterback in the NFL in the next decade.

Green Bay got lucky, honestly (says the Packers fan). Drafting a quarterback is a shot in the dark. A team could go from Joe Montana to Steve Young, or from Dan Marino to Jay Fiedler.

At least, the Patriots are smart in preparing for the future. A quarterback fell to them, they liked him, so they grabbed him. When Green Bay drafted Rodgers, quarterback wasn’t high on a list of needs either.

I imagine by the time Garoppolo’s opportunity comes to start in New England, most EIU folks will have returned to their normal NFL fanatical lives and forgotten all about this draft. But there may come a time for all of this to be revisited. Then, it will start a fresh conversation.

I suppose students at traditional football powerhouses have been so overexposed to all of this that they don’t normally feel anything foreign about a player being drafted.

Garoppolo doesn’t make me a Patriots fan and I won’t be buying his jersey. If and when he becomes the Patriots’ starter, he’ll be my nemesis like any other quarterback against the Packers.

That’s the way things should be.

Normal.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effingham dailynews.com.