Garoppolo takes on new role in Patriots’ preparation for Super Bowl


Dominic Baima

Former Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the Eastern football team celebrate, winning the Ohio Valley Conference title for the second straight year with a 52-14 win over Jacksonville State at O’Brien Field on Sept. 16, 2013.

Blake Nash, Staff Reporter

Former Eastern Illinois Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might be playing the most important role on the New England Patriots this week.

Former Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo celebrates after receiving pass for a touchdown during the Panthers' 52-14 over Jacksonville State on Sept. 16, 2013 at O'Brien Field.  The Panthers' became the OVC champions for the second straight year.
Jason Howell
Former Eastern quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo celebrates after receiving pass for a touchdown during the Panthers’ 52-14 over Jacksonville State on Sept. 16, 2013 at O’Brien Field. The Panthers’ became the OVC champions for the second straight year.

In preparation for Super Bowl XLIX against Seattle, Garoppolo has been acting as Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson in practice, which is not the easiest thing to do for the rookie QB.

“He’s an athletic dude,” Garoppolo said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports Shaun King. “He can get out of the pocket really well. I don’t know if I am as fast as him, but I did my best out there.”

So far this season, Garoppolo has had the daunting task of playing the roles of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Andrew Luck and other star QBs throughout the season.

While the Patriot stars were drawing big crowds at Super Bowl Media Day in Arizona, the backup QB was mingling with celebrities and a handful of reporters, who are gearing up for America’s biggest game.

Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams met Garoppolo and fellow teammate Zach Moore. Both players were challenged to sing with Williams, but they didn’t expect to be rewarded for it.

The trio successfully sang a song of Katy Perry’s, who will be the Super Bowl halftime entertainment. At the end both players were given a free X-Box One for their efforts.

“Wrapping up media day. Me and @zachmoore_90 got our Katy Perry on today with Michelle Williams for some Xbox’s,” Garoppolo said in an Instagram post.

All-pro teammate Rob Gronkowski attempted to sing Perry’s “Roar” for a reporter, but wasn’t rewarded. “I’m going to get an X-Box for this right?” Gronkowski said.

Garoppolo couldn’t name the song to the press, though.

A Spanish reporter approached Garoppolo, regarding the other known game of football, or as she called it futbol. Both she and Garoppolo kicked the ball around for a while, while he discussed the sport. A different sight from the man Eastern once called “Jimmy Football.”

Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici attended the event with Jordan Simone, while working for a local NBC affiliate, to interview players from the Patriots and their opponents, the Seahawks.

Bercovici, who is remembered for completing a last second Hail Mary touchdown pass in a victory over USC, asked Garoppolo how many Hail Mary’s he completed in his career. The Panther standout quickly admitted none, which prompted Bercovici to name the play that got him his first Hail Mary touchdown.

“Try 1-0 Berco,” Bercovici said, in reference to the pass he completed to NFL draft prospect Jaelen Strong to shock the Trojans.

It’s been an exciting year for Garoppolo, who became the first FCS quarterback to be drafted in the first two rounds since Joe Flacco was selected first overall by the Baltimore Ravens out of Delaware in 2008. In his first year he’s played in a total of six games, completing 19-of-27 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown.

He also backs up one of the game’s all-time greats, Tom Brady, who is making his sixth Super Bowl appearance, which ties the league record.

Garoppolo said the greatest thing he has learned from Brady over the course of the year is how he prepares for games.

“During college you try to get yourself ready, but it is nothing like this,” he said. “(Brady) does a great job of it and I try to put that into my game.”

Panthers in the Super Bowl

Garoppolo certainly isn’t the first Eastern alum to take part in the Super Bowl.

Most recently Sean Payton won the Super Bowl in 2009 with the New Orleans Saints. Also having Eastern connections on the Saints championship team was former Director of Pro Scouting Ryan Pace, who is now the Chicago Bears General Manager. Also, former Saints Special Teams coach Greg McMahon was a defensive back on the Panthers in 1978.

John Teerlinck was on the same 1978 NCAA Division II National Championship team with McMahon, but Teerlinck was and still in the defensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts, who lost to the Saints in the Super Bowl in 2009.

1975 Graduate Mike Shanahan is a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos in 1998 and 1999 as a coach.

Blake Nash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].