Rolling Meadows grad Garoppolo ready for NFL's brightest spotlight
Arlington Heights native and Rolling Meadows High School product Jimmy Garoppolo will be stepping into the NFL's brightest spotlight when he opens the regular season as the New England Patriots' starting quarterback.
Because of the four-game suspension handed down to future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady for his alleged role in "Deflategate," his job temporarily goes to Garoppolo.
The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Garoppolo was the Patriots' second-round draft choice in 2014. He has thrown just 31 regular-season passes, but he's had the good fortune to learn behind one of the all-time great quarterbacks in one of the NFL's elite franchises.
The record-setting Eastern Illinois quarterback is appreciative of his situation. And Brady has been impressed by the way the 24-year-old Garoppolo has conducted himself as he learns from him. Brady said Garoppolo's work ethic enabled him to earn the respect of a veteran team.
"I think that happened Day 1 when he came here," Belichick said of Garoppolo's demeanor. "He's always done that. I don't think it's been any different this year.
"He has grown this year, but I don't think his approach has been any different. Jimmy has got good presence for the position. I think he always has."
After Monday's practice against the Bears at the Patriots' facility in Foxborough, Garoppolo talked about the importance of earning Brady's approval.
"It's awesome," he said. "Tommy is a guy that I look up to, and I've learned a lot from him. It's always a privilege to hear something like that from a guy that you respect."
The Patriots have won at least 10 games for 13 consecutive seasons and, during that time, made 12 trips to the postseason. They've won three Super Bowls since 2001, the year Brady became their starting quarterback.
Garoppolo has always been known for having a strong work ethic, but it's been nurtured in New England.
"It's contagious in this building," he said. "It's a great group of people in there. Coaches, staff, everybody, players. You don't really have a choice but to do that."
Garoppolo came out of EIU with high marks for his lightning-quick release, work habits, split-second decision-making, overall technique and mental acumen.
But nothing he learned playing in Charleston prepared him for the stage he'll be playing on when the regular season begins.
"You've just got to take it in stride," he said. "It's an opportunity, and I'm excited about it. It's a privilege to be in the situation I'm in, and you've just got to go take advantage of it.
"It's the same mindset I've had since I walked in here Day 1. Just got to take it day by day, try to get better every day, and if you keep that mindset, good things will happen to you."
Garoppolo says he was "addicted" to football growing up and that Brady was one of the quarterbacks he idolized.
"And, even though I'm from Chicago," he said, "I always liked (the Packers') Brett Favre growing up. I thought he was a heck of a quarterback."
Asked if his appreciation for Favre happened because the Bears didn't have any comparable quarterbacks in that era, Garoppolo wouldn't take the bait.
"Oh man, come on," he said. "Yeah, they went through a little bit of a dry spell there, but no, I just always liked Favre, his toughness and everything. He was a heck of a player."
The Patriots and the NFL are about to find out what kind of player Garoppolo is.
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