NEW YORK – Jimmy Garoppolo is joining his boyhood football hero Tom Brady with the New England Patriots.
The former Eastern Illinois star quarterback was the 30th pick of the second round and 62nd overall in Friday night's NFL draft.
"I started playing quarterback my junior year in high school and Tom Brady is one of the players I have looked up to," Garoppolo said. "His poise in the pocket and how he takes control of the offense is how I have modeled my game.
"I would love the opportunity to be the next starting quarterback for the Patriots after Tom Brady."
The Patriots have given Garoppolo that chance.
Among those players invited to the NFL draft at New York, last seasons Walter Payton Trophy winner got to hear his name called in the second round on Friday night.
"It was unbelievable," Garoppolo said. "It is one of those experiences you don’t know how it’s going to feel until you go through it. You try to prepare for it, but in that moment you are speechless.
Coach (Bill) Belichick called on the phone and asked if I wanted to be a Patriot. Obviously I said yes and I can’t wait to get to work."
Many others around the EIU scene got to enjoy the moment as well.
“I think it's awesome,” said Dino Babers, who coached Garoppolo at EIU the past two years before taking the job at Bowling Green. “It's a blessing. Brady is his favorite player and for him to have the opportunity to go and learn from him until his time comes. If he's not going to listen to Tom Brady who is he going to listen to?
“I think the Texans were trying to get him in the third round but he's not a third-rounder, he's a second-round guy.”
Garoppolo was the fifth quarterback chosen following Florida's Blake Bortles, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater in Thursday's first round and Fresno State's Derek Carr in Friday's second round.
The 62nd pick is the highest by an EIU player in the NFL draft topping the third-round selection of defensive back Chris Watson, who was chosen in the third round by the Denver Broncos in 1999.
He is the fourth EIU quarterback to be drafted joining Jeff Christensen, taken by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round in 1983; Bill Glenn drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 19th round in 1944; and Roger Haberer, taken by the Bears in the 19th round in 1966.
Christensen, who now runs Throw It Deep Quarterback and Receiver Academy, instructed Garoppolo when he was a Rolling Meadows High School player and recommended him to EIU.
Tony Romo, the 2002 Walter Payton Trophy Award winner, went undrafted but signed in 2003 with the Dallas Cowboys on his way to career including the Pro Bowl.
Garoppolo was the past seasons Payton winner as the top player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
He made numerous trips to NFL facilities for workouts, including the Patriots.
"My visit to New England went really well," Garoppolo said. "It’s an unbelievable facility they have down there. Going into this draft I tried not to have too many expectations and let the chips fall where they do. A lot of trades were taking place so I tried not to think about it because that just will stress out."
Still hoping to be chosen in one of the late rounds this weekend or to sign as a free agent is Garoppolo's star receiver Erik Lora, who set an FCS record for receptions in a season.
Babers also pointed to the Patriots' past success in finding good players.
“I was (an assistant) at Arizona when we had Tedy Bruschi who was a defensive lineman and the Patriots drafted him and said they were going to make him a linebacker,” Babers said. “Everybody started talking about how dumb the Patriots were but look at the career Ted Bruschi had. You need strength up the middle – center, quarterback, running back, defensive tackle, linebacker safety. You need character and leadership at those positions and there's no doubt Jimmy brings those.
“Now you look and Eastern Illinois has Tony Romo with America's team, the Dallas Cowboys and Jimmy Garoppolo with the New England Patriots. That's good for Eastern Illinois, isn't it?”
Now Garoppolo is to begin working to make his name known in the NFL.
"I’m going to go in there and try to make myself better and better each day," the second-round pick said. "By doing that and getting better you can help the team get better.
Going into the Patriots organization I’m going to prepare everyday like I’m the starter and I think you have to have that mindset to compete and succeed. That has been how I have always prepared and I will continue to that with New England."
EIU players chosen in NFL draft:
Player , position, team, Round, year
*Bill Glenn, QB, Chicago Bears, 19th, 1944
Rob Butler, RB, Chicago Bears ,.16th, 1964
Roger Haberer, QB, Chicago Bears, 19th, 1966
Nate Anderson, RB, Washington Redskins, 6th,1974
*Ted Petersen,C,Pittsburgh Steelers.,4th ,..1977
Tom Pettigrew,OT ,Los Angeles Rams,8th ,1980
*Jeff Christensen,QB ,Cincinnati Bengals5th ,..1983
*Roy Banks,WR ,.Indianapolis Colts,5th ,..1987
Dave Popp,OT ,New York Giants ,.7th ,..1989
*Brad Fichtel, C,Los Angeles Rams ,7th ,..1993
*Ray McElroy,CB ,Indianapolis Colts,4th ,.1995
*Chris Watson,CB ,Denver Broncos ,..3rd ,.1999
Otis Hudson,OT ,.Cincinnati Bengals ,5th ,.2010
Jimmy Garoppolo,QB,New England Patriots,2nd,2014
* - indicates played in NFL game