1 of 6 | San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy speaks to the media at Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night on Monday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
HENDERSON, Nev., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Brock Purdy embraces the nickname "Mr. Irrelevant," but the last overall draft pick is now as far as possible from the monicker. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback says faith, support and opportunity drove his success.
"With every little moment in my life, every milestone that I've come across, I'm just grateful more than anything," Purdy said Tuesday during a media session at the Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa in Henderson, Nev.
Swarming supporters shouted his last name in unison on Super Bowl Opening Night, with many of the nearly 24,000 in attendance at Allegiant Stadium sporting replicas of his scarlet and metallic gold No. 13 jersey. Thousands of reporters lobbed questions about how he is balancing the pressure of the biggest game of his life.
But Purdy, who teammates contend is never riled, shrugs away the pressure like he would a sneeze.
"I've never tried to hold on to the football life tightly," Purdy said. "I've held it pretty loosely. And see what God has in store. I've stayed faithful to him and he's taken me to places I could never have imagined."
Being overlooked could be a bullet point on Purdy's resume. A bout with mono in high school limited his college offers. He then landed at Iowa State, where he rose from the third-string to the best quarterback in program history. But with an undersized frame and less-than-explosive combine showing, he wasn't on the radar for many teams in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The 49ers snagged him as the last pick and, again, he was a third-string option. Injuries to former 49ers quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance thrusted him into the starting role as a rookie. He hasn't looked back.
"When I got drafted last, did I freak out? Did I panic? No," Purdy said. "It's easy to, but more than anything, I was just grateful. I had a grateful mindset. And I had an opportunity to go play for the 49ers."
Kyle Shanahan -- known in NFL circles as an offensive mastermind -- maintains that he "loves" Purdy and calls him the "most consistent quarterback" he has been around. The 49ers coach says he hasn't "seen a story" like Purdy's tale, but thinks it's "right up there" with the infamous Super Bowl journeys of Tom Brady and Kurt Warner.
"I think fans love stuff like that," Shanahan said. "It's what they can relate to. Just to watch someone like Brock do what he's done. He got undersold because of how he looks. ... But it's not how you look standing there. It's how the film looks.
"And the film shows everything."
Purdy, 28, is known for his ability to improve while in rhythm, speedily process defenses, toughness, accuracy and running ability. He used those skills to keep his starting job and is now the only quarterback from the 2022 NFL Draft class to make a Pro Bowl and lead his team to the playoffs.
He did so by completing a sharp 69.4% of his passes for 4,280 yards, 31 scores and 11 interceptions in 16 starts this season.
Still, critics are calling Purdy a game manager, a term with negative connotation for a quarterback who doesn't singlehandedly carry his team to wins, because of the 49ers' other offensive weapons, including Christian McCaffery and Deebo Samuel.
That jab hasn't fazed the quarterback, who said it "can be a complement" to players who run an offensive system successfully.
Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, known for his defensive expertise, told UPI on Tuesday that Purdy detractors are wrong in their assessments.
"People call him a game manager and that's so naive," Cowher said. "If you run a Shanahan offense, you have to process a lot of information. He gives you a lot of things to read, progression-wise. Brock Purdy can not only process information, but he makes the right decisions and he is very accurate with the football.
"He is not just a game manager. He is a game winner."
49ers legends Steve Young and Joe Montana are among other supporters. They also gave Purdy advice ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. Consistency was the most common word used by 49ers players Tuesday, when asked about Purdy's best traits.
"I think he does such an incredible job of managing the fame and expectations, being the same guy every day and prioritizing his studying," 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.
In addition to analyzing game film and playbooks, Purdy also studies bible verses. He repeatedly went back to Psalm 23 during the season and postseason.
"Playing this game, playing this sport, there's a lot that goes into it," said Purdy, who often prays during games. "It's easy to get wrapped up in wanting to be loved, obviously by your teammates and everybody, but also the world.
"For me, in that passage [Psalm 23], it's saying, I already have what I need from the good Shepard and Jesus."
Simplicity is a major part of Purdy's journey. His $870,000 base salary is much lower than players drafted earlier and among the lowest on the 49ers roster. The lowest-paid starting quarterback in the NFL this season also splits an apartment with 49ers offensive lineman Nick Zakelj.
Purdy enters Super Bowl LVIII once again in the shadows, with two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP Patrick Mahomes quarterbacking the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes rocketed into stardom with no-look throws, a freakishly strong arm and an ability to come through in big moments.
But Purdy could forge a new reality with one more win. That future may include a lucrative contract, in addition to a Vince Lombardi Trophy.
His name also would be etched next to Brady, Warner and other quarterbacks who climbed from long shot to Super Bowl champion.
"It's going to come down to Sunday," Purdy said. "We are playing for 3 1/2 hours. How can I play my best brand of football for this organization and my teammates?"
Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, Lloyd Howell (L) and NFLPA President JC Tretter (R) stand with Vice President Calais Campbell as he receives the Alan Page Community Award at the NFLPA press conference leading up to Super Bowl LVIII at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas on February 7, 2024. The San Francisco 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11, 2024. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo