College football is infamous for its rigid boundaries of what constitutes a good football player. Coaches can pay six figures to determine the best four-star recruit and can read those players’ résumés and fitness charts before making their postseason decisions. As a result, prospects can become accustomed to hearing, “You’re not good enough.” So you wonder what it’s like to lead a team in a season in which the new AOC this year is a 24-year-old human being who, despite entering college at 5-11, had been part of the NFL Scouting Combine for a month. And you wonder: Is he good enough?
Yes, Patrick Mahomes says, he is good enough. The Cowboys star enters his second NFL season as the most notable undrafted rookie quarterback of the last couple decades (Blake Bortles is the other true contender, by the way). In 2017, Mahomes got his opportunity under one of the most advanced quarterbacks-coaching systems in the league in Andy Reid. He spent his entire rookie season in the ground, waiting for his chance to shine. The moment finally came last season when a mysterious gash on his thigh healed after a game. He soon led his team to victory. And the moment was that of an undrafted quarterback who got the NFL playing time he was ready for.
Which brings us to Oregon’s Justin Herbert. The Pac-12 quarterback is a portrait of ease, spritely and an easy passer. He’s also a native of Texas, a state still managed to fume when it was led by a shade. And he may not win the starting job this summer. Will he end up supplanting J.T. Barrett for the starting job at Ohio State? Many still believe the 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist is the surer bet, but will Herbert take the first step out of the practice bubble this summer and let history prove those assumptions right?