Craig Haley - FCS Executive Director Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
For Tom Brady, the feeling must have been familiar.
For rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, it was surreal when the New England Patriots' team plane touched down in Arizona on Monday.
"You sit back and you're like, 'Am I really going to the Super Bowl?'" Garoppolo said Tuesday at media day for Super Bowl XLIX. "It's exciting; you want to soak it in, but at the same time you want to be prepared."
The backup quarterback is supposed to be the most popular guy in town, but it would be hard to find a fan in Patriots Nation hoping to see Garoppolo in action Sunday when Brady tries to lead New England to a fourth Super Bowl title in his sixth try, this time against the defending world champion Seattle Seahawks.
Yet as the No. 2 quarterback behind Brady, Garoppolo understands "you're one snap away" from being thrust into something much greater than carrying a clipboard. So the former FCS All-American from Eastern Illinois University, who was the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner after throwing for over 5,000 yards as a senior, has to prepare himself for a moment which may never happen.
"You've got to play like that," Brady's 23-year-old understudy said.
"I've definitely gotten more confident throughout the year. Growing from being a rookie in mini-camp to where I am now, I feel a lot more confident."
Garoppolo has appeared in parts of six regular-season games - completing 19- of-27 attempts for 182 yards plus a touchdown in a Monday night game - as well as at the end of the Deflategate win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
But it won't be like he's lining up against Austin Peay or Tennessee Tech if he were to take meaningful snaps against the Seahawks.
Having come from a football family, Garoppolo says being a part of the Super Bowl was something he dreamed about as a kid. But he also knows this is a business trip for the Patriots, and his main focus is on preparation.
"We have to execute. We have a good game plan and everything, but you have to go out there and execute it on Sunday and do our best," Garoppolo said.
"It's been a crazy year, that's for sure. It's been very fast, but a very long year at the same time. I've been doing football for over a year straight now. One of the other rookies was talking about it with me and it's been crazy. I wouldn't have it any other way."