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In the FCS Huddle: Garoppolo has his own identity

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - During a senior season that ended with him being named the outstanding player in the FCS, Jimmy Garoppolo stumbled across a notebook.

It was one the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner had filled in as a freshman three years earlier with the Eastern Illinois University school passing records of the likes of Tony Romo and Sean Payton, who need no introduction to NFL fans.

What Garoppolo learned on his way to setting new standards for just about every one of those school marks is that he doesn't have to live in the shadows of predecessors or listen to the comparisons to others.

As the new NFL quarterback says, he's just trying to be Jimmy Garoppolo.

OK, New England Patriots fans might relate to a comparison of Garoppolo to Romo or need an introduction to their second-round selection, taken 62nd overall and as the fifth quarterback in the draft.

But the face of this year's FCS draft class -- a strong one at that -- really doesn't need to be concerned with what people on the outside are thinking of him and instead put his focus on, well, being the best Jimmy Garoppolo that he can be.

So he doesn't have to try to be the next Tom Brady even if the Patriots are hoping Garoppolo can be their quarterback of the future.

"It's a real opportunity, a dream come true. I'm just excited about getting there," Garoppolo told ESPN's Chris Mortensen after his selection.

"I've been looking up to (Brady) since I was a young kid since I started playing quarterback."

Garoppolo has proven he can dominate the FCS level, but that doesn't mean anything toward what he can do in the NFL.

The same goes for Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr -- the quarterbacks to go ahead of Garoppolo. They were electric on an even higher level of competition in the FBS, but that doesn't matter with what they have to get done in the NFL.

So Garoppolo, who threw for 13,156 yards and 118 touchdowns during his superb college career, needs to focus on becoming a better downfield thrower or staying in the pocket longer against the pass rush to complete the pass pattern that can develop with just an extra half second.

The 6-foot-2, 226-pounder already is an intelligent decision maker with an extremely quick release and clean delivery.

Even Brady had plusses and minuses when he entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft choice.

Scouts never walked away from Garoppolo or his film thinking he couldn't get it done at the next level. He has the same opportunity as all the QBs in the draft. It's now apples and apples, no longer FBS apples to FCS oranges. That provides confidence for him.

So Jimmy Garoppolo doesn't have to be Tom Brady or Tony Romo or even Johnny Manziel, just Jimmy Garoppolo.

He's shown how that's a pretty good formula in which to start his NFL career.

Maybe he should write that down.

05/09 22:27:58 ET