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Brock Purdy's big chance

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

In the Super Bowl tomorrow, the San Francisco 49ers will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and their iconic quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. So we're going to spend a few minutes talking about the other quarterback in the game, San Francisco's Brock Purdy. He was the very last player chosen in the 2022 draft, earning him the nickname Mr. Irrelevant because of how unlikely it would be he would ever play in the NFL. And he has done a lot more than that, as Steve Futterman reports from Las Vegas.

STEVE FUTTERMAN, BYLINE: When you are the last player chosen in the NFL Draft...

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: To make the final selection of the 2022 NFL Draft...

FUTTERMAN: ...The odds are against you.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Mr. Irrelevant 2022 - the San Francisco 49ers select Brock Purdy, a quarterback from Iowa State.

FUTTERMAN: At Brock Purdy's home that day, there was celebration.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Cheering).

FUTTERMAN: And a few moments later, he received a congratulatory phone call from the 49ers general manager.

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JOHN LYNCH: Hey, buddy. This is John Lynch from the 49ers.

BROCK PURDY: Yes, sir. How are you doing?

LYNCH: I'm sorry it took till the end. We find you very relevant, but you are...

FUTTERMAN: Purdy defied the odds by simply making the team as the third-string quarterback. Then something that was totally unexpected. Injuries to the top two quarterbacks pushed Purdy, a rookie, to the No. 1 spot in just his 12th game. He responded...

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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #1: He's going to throw out right.

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER #2: Wide open, Kyle Juszczyk. Touchdown.

FUTTERMAN: ...Leading San Francisco to a big win over the Miami Dolphins.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: 6-0. Mr. Irrelevant hits Kyle Juszczyk with a touchdown.

FUTTERMAN: This week here in Las Vegas, 49ers quarterbacks coach Brian Griese said it was eye-opening.

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BRIAN GRIESE: We loved what we saw in practice. But until you see it in the game, you don't really know. And so yeah, yeah, that's why I say it was eye-opening because it was.

FUTTERMAN: Purty is the first to admit he doesn't look like a classic top-flight quarterback.

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PURDY: Yeah. I don't have the strongest arm in the world. I may not be making crazy, flashy plays like other guys around the league.

FUTTERMAN: Purdy didn't even start tackle football until he was 12. Before that, he played flag football, which forces a player to utilize quickness. Purdy has a remarkably calm demeanor. Sometimes in the huddle, he does impressions to relax the team. On Monday, he showed off his SpongeBob impression.

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PURDY: (Impersonating SpongeBob SquarePants).

FUTTERMAN: Being picked last, he says, never phased him.

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PURDY: I got drafted last. You know, I didn't really know what my future looked like or anything. And I took that opportunity and did everything I could to make the team.

FUTTERMAN: He has earned respect from Sunday's opposition. Joe Bleymaier is the passing coordinator with the Chiefs.

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JOE BLEYMAIER: It's a tough mountain to climb to try to prove yourself every single day and overcome just some preconceived notions that come with being drafted last. Everybody else is given more opportunities, more leeway. He's got a shorter leash. He's got to be perfect every time he comes out.

FUTTERMAN: No one has ever questioned the potential of Kansas City's quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. He was the 10th player chosen in his draft year, and he's already won two Super Bowls. Mahomes has followed Purdy for years.

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PATRICK MAHOMES: It's extremely inspiring. But for me, I mean, I've seen Brock play since he was in college. I knew how good he was. And he was a winner. And he made plays happen all through his college career.

FUTTERMAN: Nearly two years later, John Lynch, the San Francisco general manager, is just happy Purdy was available with that final pick.

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LYNCH: Shame on everyone for waiting so long, including us. You know, I think he's proven that he probably should have been drafted a lot higher. But I'm just grateful we have him, I really am.

FUTTERMAN: On Sunday, Brock Purdy will be as relevant as any player on the field. For NPR News, I'm Steve Futterman at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Futterman