While Jimmy Garoppolo’s 2019 NFL campaign didn’t end happily, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback is still in a pretty good spot. He posted the best statistical season of his career and has a talented cast of teammates around him; barring any unforeseen changes, the Niners should still be one of the better clubs in the NFC. One moment of tragedy, however, could have changed all of that.
In October 2017, the Patriots traded Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers. The quarterback, however, almost died before joining up with his new team.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s road to San Francisco
These days, Jimmy Garoppolo plies his trade with the San Francisco 49ers. His football career, however, started in more humble circumstances.
Garoppolo didn’t play his college football at one of the traditional powers, instead suiting up for the Eastern Illinois Panthers. While the Ohio Valley Conference might not have the same allure as the SEC, the quarterback took advantage of the opportunity presented to him. Garoppolo seized the starting job at the tail end of his freshman year and never looked back; by the time he graduated, he had thrown for more than 13,000 yards and 118 touchdowns, with 53 of those coming in a dominant senior season.
On the back of that success, Garoppolo entered into the 2014 NFL draft; the New England Patriots selected the quarterback in the second round. While catching the eye of Bill Belichick was surely a feather in Garoppolo’s cap, he found himself stuck behind Tom Brady on the depth chart.
During his first two professional seasons, Garoppolo only appeared in garbage time, throwing a total completing a grand total of 20 passes for 188 yards. He got to start two games in 2016 during Brady’s Deflategate suspension; after that, he returned to the backup role.
A trade and a near-death experience
In October 2017, however, Jimmy Garoppolo’s professional life changed forever. If not for some quick thinking, however, the quarterback’s life could have taken a much darker turn.
On Halloween morning, the Patriots shipped their backup quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a second-round draft pick. At 5:30 AM, Garoppolo found himself in a limousine headed to the airport. That ride almost ended in tragedy.
As documented in Joon Lee’s Bleacher Report feature on the quarterback, “another car exited the highway, skidded off the side of the ramp, turned straight toward Jimmy’s door.”
Obviously, tragedy didn’t strike that day. According to Lee, the limousine driver “bailed into a ditch” and avoided a serious accident; Garoppolo made it to the airport and, in turn, San Francisco. From there, the rest is history.
Jimmy Garoppolo found a home with the San Francisco 49ers
On a human level, it’s obviously good that Jimmy Garoppolo escaped that potential accident unharmed. From a football perspective, however, the San Francisco 49ers have to be thrilled with how things worked out.
By the end of 2017, Garoppolo had taken over as the Niners’ starting quarterback. While he missed most of the 2018 campaign with a torn ACL, he returned in time for the 2019 season; he, of course, helped the club come within touching distance of a Super Bowl title.
While San Francisco fell short of the ultimate prize, Garoppolo had a solid season, throwing for 3,978 yards and 27 touchdowns. He did have the benefit of a strong running game and a stout defense, but those numbers aren’t bad for a first full season under center. Even if he doesn’t turn into a game-breaking star, Jimmy G seems to have the tools to be a capable starting quarterback.
If not for the quick thinking of that limousine driver, however, everything could have been tragically different.