NFL

Jeff Driskel, Denver’s Newest Starting QB, Credited Baseball for Helping Him Survive in Japan

There is absolutely no pressure on Jeff Driskel, other than him being tasked with rescuing a free-falling Broncos season.

A trendy preseason playoff choice, Denver instead started the 2020 season 0-2 and lost numerous players indefinitely. That included all-world linebacker Von Miller, out for the season with a serious ankle injury, and young receiver Courtland Sutton.

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock will miss several weeks with a shoulder injury. That news pressed Jeff Driskel, a journeyman quarterback and former baseball prospect, into the role of saving the Denver Broncos.

Jeff Driskel is in his fifth NFL season

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Once a starting quarterback at Florida, Jeff Driskel propelled himself into NFL daft talk with an excellent senior season at Louisiana Tech in 2015.

Knowingly or unknowingly in the final year of the Colin Kaepernick era, San Francisco used a sixth-round pick on Driskel the following April. Although Driskel didn’t replace Kaepernick in San Francisco, he nonetheless got his chance in 2018 with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Driskel completed 59.7% of his passes in nine games (five starts) that year for 1,003 yards, six touchdowns, and only two touchdowns. Driskel also averaged 5.2 yards per carry on 25 rushes and scored two touchdowns.

After moving to Detroit last year, Driskel hit an even 59% of his passes for 685 yards, four touchdowns, and four interceptions in three games.

Denver signed Driskel to a two-year, $5 million contract in March. Driskel received a $750,000 signing bonus and an even $1 million base salary.

Driskel was also a baseball star

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Before Jeff Driskel ever considered a career in football, another sport guided him to happiness.

The son of military parents — his mother, Mary, served in the U.S. Coast Guard and his father, Jerry, served in the Navy — Driskel spent a few years living in Japan. When Jeff was 8 years old, he moved overseas when his father was stationed in Sasebo, a port town in Japan.

Although Jeff couldn’t speak Japanese, he could play baseball. The sport served as a translator between him and the locals, who nicknamed him “Godzilla.”

Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, who signed with the Yankees before the 2003 season, held the same nickname.

In a 2019 interview with mlive.com, Driskel fondly remembered the few years he spent in Japan.

“It was a wild experience, I guess you could say. Something I wouldn’t have asked for at the time, but something that was just an awesome deal. Just really culturally eye-opening, I guess, to see how crazy something like this is — that the U.S. military can take you all over the world.”

As for baseball, Driskel credited the sport for helping him adjust to a new country.

“We didn’t have a great team,” Driskel said, “but I was pretty good. I was big.”

Driskel played baseball in high school, but opted for a football career over baseball. That remained true even when the Boston Red Sox drafted him in 2013 despite Driskel not playing baseball at Florida.

Jeff Driskel is the Broncos’ short-term hope at quarterback

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Jeff Driskel did his best at making the most of a Week 2 opportunity.

Driskel completed 18 of his 34 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in Denver’s 26-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Denver now needs Driskel to take over games the way he did at Florida and Louisiana Tech.

Denver hosts Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 3 before a winnable Week 4 game at the New York Jets. In Week 5, though, Denver again makes an East Coast trip to play Cam Newton and the Patriots.

Denver needs to escape that three-game stretch with at least a 2-3 season record if the Broncos have any hopes of making the postseason.

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