Brock Purdy became an NFL star almost overnight. What does it mean for his future?
There’s another side to this heart-warming Brock Purdy story – to the success he’s having leading the San Francisco 49ers. What could this success mean for his future? Hy-Vee commercials alongside Patrick Mahomes? Subway commercials with Tom Brady?
The possibilities seem limitless after what the former Iowa State star has done since replacing Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback.
This weekend it's the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, and Purdy's 49ers have a Sunday date against the Dallas Cowboys (5:30 p.m., Fox). The former Cyclone is unbeaten in six NFL starts. He's a team-first guy who’s loving every minute of the funny back-and-and-forth banter with his tight end (former Hawkeye) George Kittle.
“Will Brock break the bank? I don’t know if that will happen, but he’s set himself up for a long career in the NFL,” Iowa State quarterback great Seneca Wallace, also a former NFL player, told me. “What he’s done is he’s certainly extending his career in the NFL.”
NFL fans have a name for the last guy taken in the draft each year: Mr. Irrelevant. But Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 draft, hasn’t been so irrelevant after all, eh?
“Brock’s dominating the social media around here,” said former Cyclones quarterback Austen Arnaud, who lives and works in the Bay Area. “Kittle has the big stuff commercially, but for Brock – it’s coming. They love him here.”
More:Peterson: Former Iowa State football star Brock Purdy receives high praise from NFL legend Tom Brady
Purdy is the talk of the NFL. He’s the talk in Iowa, and we Iowans love stories like this.
We followed Max Duggan’s unlikely ascension from TCU’s backup quarterback to Heisman Trophy runner-up, and then to the College Football Playoff championship game.
We hung on Kurt Warner’s every play, every pinpoint completion, in his journey from the aisles of a Waterloo-area Hy-Vee to the NFL Hall of Fame.
We perk up when seeing NBA highlights of Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State), one of the league’s top players. We do the same when a Keegan Murray (Iowa) clip pops up on the screen.
And now it’s Purdy, statistically the Cyclones’ greatest quarterback, who is proving there’s more than height, weight and arm strength to those metrics NFL scouts use in predicting success and failure.
“He’s at a different level mentally than a lot of guys playing football now,” said Arnaud, Iowa State’s starting quarterback between 2007-10. “His knowledge, his likability and work ethic are infectious, even contagious. He’s got the 'it' factor. Purdy to Kittle – everyone in these parts love it, a Cyclone throwing touchdown passes to a Hawk.
“Brock’s playing with the confidence of a veteran, not like a guy that nearly didn’t get drafted. You can’t top that.”
More:3 things to know on Brock Purdy, the ex-Iowa State football standout turned 49ers star
By all accounts, Purdy was just a laid-back college kid with a ton of athletic ability
He wasn’t a big party guy. He occasionally dabbled on the piano at a residence he shared with teammates Breece Hall and Mike Rose. He was guided by faith.
“He was just Brock,” his first college roommate, Beau Coberley, told me. “His idea of a good time was just hanging out with the guys.”
That was at Freddy Court, officially known as Frederiksen Court, where he and Coberley, also a football player, roomed during their first year on campus.
“A down-to-earth guy who never made it about himself,” Coberley said. “A people person. He was always watching (game) film and hanging around the apartment. A really relaxed guy.”
More:Peterson: Iowa State's Brock Purdy decision at Oklahoma State — and he's been a star ever since
Coberley, who came to Iowa State as a walk-on, filled in a blank I’d always had. What was your roommate like after returning home from that famous breakout game as a true freshman at Oklahoma State in 2018?
“After that game, anyone else in that position who did what he just did would be over the moon with excitement,” Coberley said. “But no. Like usual after games, we just sat down on the couch and watched 'SportsCenter.'
“We went out to breakfast the next morning like we’d do. He wasn’t even talking about the game. It was just us guys, but that time was different.
“People in the restaurant picked up on the fact that Brock was there. They were turning around, looking at him. Brock shook it all off. He was just one of the guys. He was just Brock.”
That still seems to be the case.
“It’s a game, and it’s my job for sure and I take it very seriously, but at the end of the day, I know that I’m not defined by the wins or losses as a person," Purdy told reporters last week. "That’s not who I am. I’m not just a quarterback. I wasn’t born to just to be a quarterback and play football.”
More:What NFL writers, analysts are saying about ex-Iowa State QB Brock Purdy amid late-season surge
From Souper Bowl to Super Bowl?
From tossing cans of peanut butter to Chase Allen during a church-sponsored food drive to throwing TD passes to Kittle in the Super Bowl? That’d be quite a headline, Allen mentioned to me last week.
Indeed, it would. In 2021, Purdy and Allen volunteered for a food drive at Des Moines’ Lutheran Church of Hope. There’s even a Twitter video of Purdy unpacking a bag of food. When he finds the peanut butter, he tosses across the room to Allen. They laugh.
Two summers ago, Purdy hung out with kids at an Empowered Youth for Students function at The Well Covenant Church in Des Moines. He tossed the football around. He gave a testimonial.
“Ever since I’ve known him, he’s always been about his faith,” Coberley said.
There are a couple things that must first happen if that 'Souper to Super' headline is to become reality.
There’s this weekend’s divisional round against America’s Team. There’s the NFC championship round. Win both those games, and then it’s Purdy’s Souper Super Bowl.
“Now you’re facing a true defense (Dallas) that leads the league in takeaways (33),” said Wallace, who lives in the Dallas metroplex. “The 49ers are No. 2, so this looks to come down to the quarterbacks – Brock and Dak Prescott – and whoever protects the ball the best.”
More:Iowa State football great Brock Purdy leads 49ers over Seahawks for NFC West crown
That’s the nitty-gritty stuff from a guy who told me after the draft that Purdy was headed to the right team.
“He has to work on his range, as far as making all the throws, but as far as being in the right system — the 49ers are a great place for him to land,” Wallace said during our post-draft conversation. “They don’t really stretch the ball down the field. They’ve got a lot of 10- to 15-yard throws, which are right in his range.”
Wallace was Seattle’s fourth-round pick of the 2003 draft. He played nine seasons, mostly as a quarterback, but sometimes as a receiver and kick returner. Seneca knows football.
More:Peterson: Former Iowa State QB star Seneca Wallace has advice for Brock Purdy, Hunter Dekkers
“I’m happy things are working out in his favor,” Wallace said last week. “A lot of this is about the timing. He went to the right location. I didn’t (plan) on him playing like he is now, nor did anyone else. I knew there was a great opportunity to make the team, because of the 49ers’ system.
“He can throw from different platforms and different areas on the field. He’s elusive. He’s got great pocket awareness. If you understand ball, you can flourish in the 49ers’ system.”
Purdy is flourishing, all right. He’s 6-0 as a starter since replacing Jimmy G. He’s beaten Tom Brady.
Arnaud, who starred at Ames High School, proudly admits his every trip to the water cooler includes conversation about the most famous former Cyclone currently living and working in Northern California.
“It’s crazy,” Arnaud said. “Brock Purdy buzz is everywhere up here.”
It’s everywhere here, too. It’s coast to coast.
“Think about this,” Coberley told me. “Brock was in Ames on a visit before he signed to come to Iowa State. He said to me, 'Hey, I’m going to need someone to throw to.' I said I’d do it – me, a walk-on, running routes for a guy who at that time was choosing between Iowa State and Texas A&M?
“We became roommates, and now look what he’s doing. If all goes right, he’s got a chance to play in the Super Bowl. How cool is that?”
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson is in his 51st year writing sports for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter @RandyPete