Long before Brock Purdy was captured pounding his chest on national television after yet another San Francisco 49ers scoring drive, he caught the eye of Perry High School football coach Preston Jones amongst a group of other Puma freshmen finding their way in the weight room.
He was hardly tall in stature but stood out in a big way.
“It was clear that there was something different about him, and not the football stuff,” Jones recalled. “I didn’t know how good he was going to be football-wise, but he had a work ethic, a competitive nature, and was already a leader.”
Purdy, whose family lives in Queen Creek where he grew up, moved out of the freshman football physical education class and into the varsity class during his second semester at Perry High in Gilbert. It was clear he was going to compete for a starting job his sophomore year.
All Purdy needed was a chance and he took advantage of it.
It’s kind of his thing – when given an opportunity, Purdy is relentless in his pursuit of performing above everyone’s expectations while just being himself.
He split time at Perry his sophomore year and then missed the start of his junior year because of mononucleosis before taking Perry to the state title game and finishing his senior year as the Arizona player of the year.
Purdy didn’t receive a scholarship offer from an FBS school until his senior year was over and just a handful of days before the early signing period. All he needed was a chance – it ended up being at Iowa State.
Then it was a record-breaking career for the Cyclones that started when Purdy was given a chance there when the starting quarterback went down with an injury and the backup was ineffective. He never relinquished the starting nod again.
“We all knew that if he ever got on the field, he would never ever give it up,” said David Klecka, who was the running backs coach at Perry. “It’s his now. Still humble, hard-working Brock. He will always be that way.”
Drafted last in the 2022 draft, No. 262 overall, Purdy made the 49ers roster, and then when two quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart went down over the course of the season, Purdy has gone undefeated in six starts including beating Tom Brady, who happened to win a Super Bowl as a rookie after taking over for the injured starter.
Time will only tell if Purdy will give up his starting job with the Niners in the months to come, but for now he still commands the huddle as San Francisco hosts Dallas in the NFC Divisional round this weekend at 4:30 p.m. MST on Sunday, Jan. 22.
“Yes, it’s the playoffs, but for myself, I’ve got to do my job,” Purdy told the media before the Seattle game. “I’m not trying to think about this storybook ending [or] anything like that.”
Until Purdy’s season comes to an end and a decision is made for the 2023 season, the Arizona high school football community will continue to revel in Purdy’s success and rise to prominence as the following gets bigger after each win.
While the national media is wondering how a guy who barely received a scholarship, went to a lesser Big 12 program and was drafted last, can do all of this as a rookie, those who have been in a film session, in a classroom, listened to his command in a huddle or watch him win over a locker room knows better.
Niners offensive lineman Trent Williams is among the believers.
“It’s pretty much just operating like it’s another day at the office, man,” Williams told Sports Illustrated. “Like I said, Brock is not surprising anybody in this locker room. We’ve been able to see him since OTAs. We’ve been able to kinda get a feel for him. He’s a great player, man, so none of this surprises us. It’s just another day at the office.”
Purdy’s just doing what he’s always done once he steps on the field.
“The thing I am least surprised by is what the national media is surprised by,” Jones said. “The scrambling, throwing into tight windows, his will to win has always been there. I don’t think anything he does surprises me, really.”
Jones attributes it to something that is rarely seen in athletes. It’s not the “it factor” in Jones’ mind. Yes, he thinks Purdy has that, but there is something else behind the success in his former coach’s mind.
“He has the it factor, but I’ve had other kids who I said the same thing about,” Jones said. “But he has that in everything he does. He has the it factor in the classroom, in social settings, in and everywhere else.
“It goes beyond it factor with him. It’s weird. He’s just different.”