There’s no question Jarrett Stidham has dealt with a lot of adversity throughout his young football career.
If you haven’t heard his story, I’m sure you’re wondering how a kid who threw for over 2,500 yards with a 28-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in just eight games a senior and was ranked the number one quarterback in the 2015 recruiting class could deal with any sort of adversity.
Let’s get into that.
Prior to taking his talents to Baylor University, Stidham left home at 18 due to a rocky family environment that few know about, and moved in with the Copeland family who welcomed him in with open arms before becoming his legal guardians. They helped support him throughout some of the toughest years of his life. In a 2017 article by Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report, Stidham said that he would stills talk to his biological family but would consider his familial bonds with the Copelands.
“Everything is on him. I swear it is,” his former coach, Jeff Hulme, told Bleacher Report, “He is such a unique young man. When he came to live with us, we told him, ‘In life you learn from other people’s mistakes and don’t make the same mistakes twice.’ I told him, ‘Jarrett, we raise people that want to help other people.’”
Stidham then took his talents north to Baylor — while many felt the Copelands had a big influence on his decisions — where he played 10 games as a true freshman after Seth Russell went down with an injury. He took the Big 12 by storm, throwing for 1,265 yards with 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
However, the firing of head coach Art Biles and his staff amidst a sexual abuse scandal led to Stidham packing his bags and announcing that he would be transferring to Auburn. Due to the NCAA’s transfer rules, he also would have to sit out a year and attend a junior college without a football team.
To stay sharp, Stidham spent the entire season playing scout team quarterback at Midwest High School. He showed up every day despite not being able to suit up on Friday nights to improve and stay sharp during his off-year.
In an article by Tom Keown of ESPN, Hulme, who coached Stidham at Midwest High School, told him to “come and go as you please” and that if he couldn’t make it, “not to worry about it.”
Stidham never missed a day. He hung in there, shredded high school defenses the way he used to, and used the time to better himself physically and mentally.
After that year, Stidham packed his bags once again and headed to Auburn. In his first season, he won the starting job, completed 66 percent of his passes, threw for over 3,000 yards and helped the Tigers win the SEC West after huge victories against powerhouses Alabama and Georgia. Despite being deemed as a projected first-round draft pick after his 2017 campaign at Auburn, he elected to stay for his senior year.
His stock dipped after an up-and-down 2018 season due to what some would suggest a poor fit for the gunslinger. He was playing in an Auburn system that had him a phone booth and focused primarily on a downhill rushing attack.
A few months after winning their sixth Lombardi trophy in two decades, the New England Patriots selected Stidham in the fourth round of the draft. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn tweeted saying the team got “the steal of the draft.”
It was a great opportunity for Stidham who oozed with potential and raw talent as he got to join arguably the most dominant organization in professional sports and a chance to learn under all-time greats Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
After a rookie year — where all we heard about was Tom Brady’s contract situation and impending free agency — nothing but positive things came out of Foxborough regarding Stidham. Months after the Patriots’ first wild card playoff exit in the decade, Brady shocked the world by announcing his departure from New England, leaving the team with a giant dead cap hit and a quarterback room consisting of Stidham and re-acquired journeyman Brian Hoyer.
Pundits all across the country felt that the Patriots would pick a quarterback in the 2020 draft add insert more youth and competition to the quarterback room. They did not, however, and instead chose to ride with Stidham throughout the entire uncommonly virtual offseason that all teams endured during the Covid-19 pandemic. At least until late June.
The Patriots added Cam Newton, one of the most unique and dominant quarterbacks in the last decade that the league and Stidham’s alma mater Auburn has ever seen, on a one-year “prove it”-type deal. Newton, a former league MVP released by the Carolina Panthers three months earlier, also arrived in New England looking to overcome adversity of his own.
After a month of exhausting quarterback competition talk that many of us aren’t used to, the Patriots hit the field to begin preparations for the 2020 campaign. After an inconsistent first few days from all the quarterbacks, Stidham went to the hospital due to a hip injury and Newton seized the opportunity for more reps before running away with the starting quarterback gig and officially becoming Brady’s successor.
With Stidham “failing” to beat out a motivated, former MVP in 2020, what does this mean for Stidham’s future in New England?
The 24-year-old quarterback is in a great position regardless. No, this isn’t a cop-out after months of hype and trust was preached by myself and others — it’s the truth. The Patriots had enough faith to at least go into the season with him, otherwise they wouldn’t have waited until June 28th to add another (non-Hoyer) quarterback. They would have jumped the gun faster than that or even drafted somebody if they felt he wasn’t in their plans heading into the future.
It may be wake-up call for Stidham, though, and one he might have needed. The Patriots lost their glue and alpha male leader in Tom Brady and replaced him with the polarizing Cam Newton — something the offense needed. Nothing in this league is handed to you, it is earned and he only has one way to view this thing: at the end of the 2020 season, he will have spent a year with Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Brian Hoyer, who all can serve as role models and bring different types of experience and knowledge to the game and the quarterback room.
2020 is therefore another year for him to mature and grow inside a system that likes him and feels that he has got a chance down the road — and to join the long list of “feel good” stories who succeeded in New England.
If you jumped the gun, it’s okay, you all know I did. Don’t throw those Stidham No. 4 jerseys away just yet, though. Store them, you could be dusting them off a year from now.