Dear NFL GMs,
I want to be like Aaron Rodgers.
Growing up it was always Peyton Manning. You could ask me at any given time — from when I was five years old to when I was sixteen — I’d tell you that Peyton was my favorite quarterback, and it wasn’t close. But then, I don’t know. Something changed. These past few years, as I’ve continued to learn the quarterback position, I think I’d have to say that Aaron Rodgers is my all-time favorite guy.
I know that might not be the answer you want to hear. That, if you look at the tape, it’s clear that Aaron Rodgers does things that no other quarterback should do. But this is the start of our relationship, and honesty is the best policy. Aaron Rodgers is my favorite NFL quarterback, simply because he is the most fun. I think he’s one of the reasons that people watch and love football.
Quite honestly, that’s the kind of player I want to be.
If it puts your mind at ease, know that I’m not going to play the game the way Aaron does. I couldn’t if I tried; he’s one of a kind. But so am I. And when I make it to the NFL, I plan on playing this game my own way — the way I have my entire life. Just as Aaron Rodgers has a distinct style, I want people to see that in my game as well.
Over the past three months, I’ve met with many different teams, and they’ve hit me with everything from questions on how I liked my time in Richmond to drills requiring me to draw plays from memory as fast as I possibly could. It felt pretty demanding at times, sure. But I’ve tried to do everything asked of me during this process.
I know right now there are other quarterbacks in this draft expected to be taken higher than me. Many of them come from huge programs and are generating a lot of buzz. Because of that, I know I’ll have to spend some time waiting to hear my name called, and I’m not going to lie — every minute will be tough.
But I also know that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the first quarterback taken in his draft class, so at least I’ll be in good company.
Everything I read seems to highlight those two words as a big question mark surrounding me. By now, if you’re reading this, you probably know how far I can throw, maybe even down to the centimeter. You know that I don’t have the biggest arm in the draft. But if you’ve watched my game closely, you also probably know I can make every throw on the field that’s asked of me. And I have.
A lot of top tier NFL quarterbacks came into this league with one or more question marks surrounding their game. To see how they’ve overcome that, I’ve spent the past few years watching tape. A lot of tape. And I’ve tried to study guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson — players who have managed to maximize their strengths so much that it’s difficult to even notice their weaknesses.
Of course, I’ve watched plenty of Aaron Rodgers, too. And Peyton Manning, Tom Brady… I obviously can’t tell you that I’m as good as those guys, but I can promise that I’m as committed to every part of the game — the footwork, decision-making, the situational football, and all the the other finer details of the quarterback position — as anybody could possibly be.
It’s because of that preparation and attention to detail that, out of anybody in this draft, no player will be more prepared out of the gate than me. I’m a guy who can contribute right away. Whether it’s getting it done on the field, or some other way where I’m helping the starting QB and coaches. The stuff I can control, I will obsess over until I perfect it. But I’m sure you’ve heard all of that before.
I know being a successful quarterback is about a lot more than how you perform on the field. All the guys I’ve listed are great in part because of their leadership and demeanor. So as I come into the league, what you need to know is that nothing matters more to be than being a good teammate.
It might sound corny to people who aren’t in the game, but football really is brotherhood. For me, and for a lot of other guys. The fans don’t always see it that way — all you ever hear in the offseason is how it’s all just a business. I know guys come and go so fast that it’s easy to see football players as these meatheads, but I’ll never be able to look at it that way. For me, being on a team is different from anything else. Being in the huddle with your group of guys and trying to lead a charge down the field is truly one of the things that brings me the greatest amount of joy while playing this game.
I can tell you the names of every guy who has been in my huddle all the way down to peewee football. And I still have a relationship with all of my coaches. Really almost every friendship I have in life is because of football, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Coming out of high school, I thought I had put together a good senior season. I knew I had the frame to compete at the next level. I even went to three big camps, at Rutgers, Duke, and NC State. But ultimately I only got four scholarship offers: Toledo, Holy Cross, Towson, and Old Dominion. I was thankful for their interest, but they weren’t exactly the first schools a person thinks of when they’re thinking of elite college football.
I had always been interested in the University of Richmond because they were an excellent academic school and I noticed that they actually competed well against some pretty big FBS schools year in and year out. Before I was ever formally offered a scholarship they invited me to throw at a prospect camp for potential recruits. I went, and thought I had performed well. But at the same time, I felt the same way after the camps at Rutgers, Duke, and NC State. So I didn’t really know what to expect.
I still remember getting the phone call from the coach, Danny Rocco, a few weeks after the team saw me work out.
“Hey, we wanted to tell you that we think you were good. Maybe even the best kid in camp.”
I thought I was in. Just as I was about to thank coach, he spoke again.
“… So we narrowed it down between you and another guy. Do you think you could come back?”
When they asked me to go back a second time, so many people told me I was making a mistake. That I should just go with one of the offers I already had, and not worry about a team who still wasn’t even sure I was their guy.
Maybe it was all just because of the fact that there was another guy I had to compete with. But I felt like I had to go to Richmond. Even if I didn’t end up going there, I had to prove to their staff that I was better than whoever else they wanted to put against me.
I showed up, competed and that’s how Richmond ended up becoming my home. And for the past three years I’ve enjoyed being a Spider more than words can describe. Not only have I had a lot of success on the football field, but I’ve received a great education. We may have not been a Power 5 school, but we beat teams in the ACC. We held our own in big games and, like I said, more than anything I’ll remember my brothers in the huddle.
I felt like I had to go to Richmond. Even if I didn’t end up going there, I had to prove to their staff that I was better than whoever else they wanted to put against me.
I know it’s not a common headline — a quarterback coming out of Richmond playing in the NFL — but I’m not a common player. I haven’t just been preparing for the NFL these past three years. I’ve been training for this moment my whole life. Well, more accurately, I’ve been getting drilled for this moment my whole life.
My dad was a quarterback at the Naval Academy. He wasn’t the starter — he didn’t even see the field too often — but using the tools he learned at the Academy, he taught me a lot growing up about mental discipline and developing good habits. He also taught me how to throw a football very, very accurately. I’m especially thankful for that. Everything my father could do to help me become a better player, he did. And he’s a big part of why I’m confident I can succeed in the National Football League.
I know my own strengths and, like I said, I try to be aware of my own weaknesses and limit them as much as possible. I know it’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m ready to get going. Because I can tell you that after these past few months I’m tired of reading about how I’m not one of the three best quarterbacks in the draft, and seeing features on the draft’s top players that don’t include my name. Here I am, on the brink of playing in the National Football League — just like I said I would when I was a kid — and I feel like I’m still being overlooked.
So I plan to prove myself in the NFL, the same way I proved I was worthy of a scholarship at Richmond: by competing on the field.
I know I’ll adjust to the speed of the NFL. I know I’ll learn how to read the more complicated defenses. Whatever it takes to play in this league, I’ll do. And I’ll keep doing it, because the one thing every great quarterback has in common is that they’re always getting better. I have a lot I want to accomplish in this game. I’m excited to get started. But as much as anything else, I can’t wait to be somebody’s favorite quarterback one day.
Right now, though, I just want to play football for a team that believes in me. If your organization is willing to do that, I promise I will spend every waking moment as a professional making you feel good about that decision.