By Remy Mastey
GILBERT – From “Mr. Irrelevant” to NFC Championship Game starter, San Francisco 49ers rookie quarterback Brock Purdy continues to defy the norm.
Purdy, a Queen Creek native, is 8-0 since stepping in at quarterback while throwing for 1,920 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Named a finalist for AP Offensive Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, Purdy outdueled Dak Prescott and the Cowboys last Sunday in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs to move one win away from booking a business trip home to the Valley for Super Bowl LVII.
His inspirational journey to Lincoln Financial Field, where the 49ers take on the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday for the conference championship, started on the Perry High School football field – where he shared reps as a sophomore quarterback – and it still resonates in the hallways today.
“To be in the position that he is in now after never being looked at to be the next great NFL quarterback, definitely never being looked at to lead a team to the Super Bowl and he still remains humble is super super cool to me,” Perry High senior quarterback Jack Amer said.
To some, Purdy is “Mr. Irrelevant” – the derisive moniker given each year to the final pick in the NFL draft. But he has been “Mr. Everything” to the 49ers franchise after it selected him dead last in the 2022 NFL draft. When Niners quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo suffered season-ending injuries, Purdy was thrust into arguably the most complicated offensive system in the NFL orchestrated by coach Kyle Shanahan.
He went 6-0 as the starter in the regular season, throwing for 13 touchdowns and 1,374 total yards before picking up two playoff wins in his first postseason action.
Purdy’s ascent began in 2015, when only people from the Queen Creek community could spot him in the grocery store. NFL stardom seemed less likely after throwing eight touchdowns to 11 interceptions in a two-quarterback system at Perry during his sophomore season.
However, his confidence and attitude never wavered.
“He was always really good about it,” Perry athletic director Jennifer Burks said. “They did a great job sharing time (at quarterback) and working together and switched off during the particular plays that were better for one quarterback or the other.”
Purdy’s exponential growth led him to 42 touchdowns and 3,333 passing yards as a junior and 57 touchdowns and 4,405 passing yards as a senior. In those two seasons, Purdy carried the Pumas to the AIA 6A State Championship twice, only to lose both games to Chandler High School.
Purdy’s excellence also extended to the classroom, where he made an equally memorable impact.
“Every time I saw Brock in a class, he was always the one sitting at the front of the class, engaging with the teacher and even helping students around him,” Burks said. “I was one time in a class where they were doing a computer-based project, and he literally was going around helping everybody to make sure they understood how to do the project … That’s just kind of the kid he was.”
Five years removed from his high school days, Purdy still helps the Perry students. Specifically, before and after he was drafted, Purdy returned to throw with the Pumas football players.
Behind his determination and kind nature to help for the greater good, Purdy, 23, has handled everything thrown his way with grace. His next test will come in a hostile environment on the road against the NFC’s top-seeded Eagles.
“Just knowing that when you put the work in, when you are a good person, when you’re taking care of stuff in the classroom and in the community that even if it’s not noticed right away that one day it will all pay off whether that’s through football or through life,” Amer said. “Brock is in the spotlight right now. Seeing his humility and hard work being put into the spotlight is really amazing.”
The Pumas finished last season 4-7, and while Purdy graduated in 2018 , he can still contribute to turning the program around with his NFL success alone.
Purdy’s emergence has added exposure to Perry, and students on the football team realize they are playing for a school capable of producing NFL-caliber talent. Who knows how far his influence could go in the Pumas’ locker room for the upcoming season?
“A lot of the kids are talking about Brock,” said Perry coach Joseph Ortiz, who was hired in 2021 to rebuild the program after the school’s streak of four straight winning seasons ended. “I think if he can do it, why can’t we? If he can rally around himself and believe in himself, we can believe in ourselves as a team to turn this thing around here at Perry.”
Added junior quarterback Ryder Brown: “I’ve looked up to Brock since I was in sixth grade. I thought of him as a celebrity so it’s crazy that I’m playing quarterback at the same high school that he played at.”
Despite Purdy’s celebrity status at Perry and his achievements at Iowa State as a four-year starter, many draft scouts still doubted his abilities would yield positive results in a competitive NFL setting. One scouting report noted Purdy was “very mature and experienced,” but he “did not test well” as a “limited athlete that has a maxed out body” and “limited arm, both in strength and throw repertoire,” according to The Athletic.
But the people around Perry always knew that Purdy would be a star.
“He had that ‘it factor,’ whatever that meant. He had it,” Burks said. “Watching him play you could tell he just gets it. Even watching him now, you will see him make some cool moves or scramble here and there, and we’ve been watching him make those moves since high school.”
“So are we surprised with what he is doing now? Absolutely not.”