Darnold on winning Jets QB job: It’s ‘an amazing feeling’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2018

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold got the call from Todd Bowles, and then he made the proud phone call to home.
The 21-year-old rookie broke the news to his parents that he was named the New York Jets’ starting quarterback. And they didn’t hold back their excitement.
“Mom was crying, as usual,” Darnold said Tuesday with a big smile. “Then, my Dad was just pumped for me. He just said, ‘You know, you worked so hard and this is what you worked so hard for.’ So, it was a cool little moment there with them and my sister. Yeah, it was fun.”
Mike and Chris Darnold will be in Detroit on Monday night to watch their son play against the Lions and make NFL history as the youngest quarterback to start a season opener since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
There will be plenty of other eyes on the No. 3 overall draft pick. And, Darnold is ready.
“We celebrate all wins,” Darnold said while speaking to the media for the first time since Bowles’ announcement Monday .
“I know that just because I got named the starter doesn’t mean we won the game Monday night. It’s awesome and I’m really happy to be the starting quarterback, but I also know that I’ve got to go out there and do my job.”
That’s exactly what Darnold has been doing since he got here in the spring as the potential face of the franchise.
The quarterback was impressive in his ability to pick up the offense. Both Bowles and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates raved about his maturity and ability to brush aside mistakes and not repeat them.
Those traits carried over into training camp, and Darnold beat out Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater to earn the start in Week 1. Some thought it was a foregone conclusion from the moment the Jets drafted the youngster, but he consistently checked off all the boxes the Jets had for him.
“As a football player, whether it’s Pop Warner, whether it’s high school, college or now the NFL, your dream is to play the game,” Darnold said.
“And that’s what I want to do. I just want to go out there and play every single day. If Josh did get the nod, I was going to be pumped for him and I was going to be the best backup that I can be.
“Now that I know that I’m starting, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Darnold acknowledged that he might be a little nervous the first time he takes the field at Ford Field, but isn’t thinking about any of that right now.
It’s all about preparing to face the Lions. And the fact that Bowles is starting a rookie quarterback in a domed stadium doesn’t concern the coach much, either.
After all, Darnold played his college home games for USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — with a seating capacity of 93,607.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult,” Bowles said. “He’s been playing football all his life. He’s not just coming fresh out of the womb and just grabbing the ball for the first time. He’s been in crowds. He’s seen crowds and he’s been playing football. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.
“It’s always going to be loud in a dome and Detroit is a tough place to play, I get that, but he just has to play football. He’ll be fine.”
The Jets have thought that all along, and Darnold carries himself with a quiet sense of cool.
He’s confident in himself, but understands the task at hand — and takes nothing for granted. That’s why he’s unfazed by being the only rookie quarterback this year to start in Week 1 or being the youngest player — ever — to do so.
“I mean, yeah, it’s cool,” he said. “It’s definitely something that I pride myself on. First of all, I know that I haven’t done anything yet. I haven’t won any games in the NFL.
“So, I’ve just got to go out there and do my job. Knowing that I am young compared to a lot of the other starting quarterbacks, for me, I think that’s more of just affirmation of knowing that I’ve got a long way to go.”
Darnold’s progression has been rapid and steady, with the youngster confirming to himself this summer with some solid performances that he was ready for the NFL.
“I knew that once I went out there in the preseason games,” he said, “and was able to call the play in the huddle, go out there and score a couple touchdowns, I knew that I could play this game at a high level.”
Darnold readily acknowledges the things he needs to work on — staying consistent and not turning the ball over, to name a few — and will have to continually prove himself. He also leans on some advice Bridgewater gave him shortly after he joined the Jets.
“He was like, ‘Bro, just be yourself,'” Darnold recalled. “No matter who you are in this league, you want to win. Now that I’m named the starter, anyone, whether it’s a 15-year vet or a second-year guy, they want to help anyone as much as they can if they’re playing. … When we start winning, everyone has success in the locker room.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, knowing that I just need to be myself and if I do that, I don’t really have anything else to worry about.”
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