Garoppolo will join list of FCS QBs to start in Super Bowl

By CRAIG HALEY

Stats Perform FCS Senior Editor

(Stats Perform) - Jimmy Garoppolo is set to join a distinguished list of former FCS-level quarterbacks who have stepped onto football's biggest stage.

His start for the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV on Sunday will mark the eighth time it has happened with a signal caller who played collegiately in Division I's subdivision.

"It's been a crazy whirlwind of a ride," Garoppolo said. "And nowhere else I'd rather be than in a dogfight with than with those guys in the locker room."

Three of the FCS quarterbacks have led Super Bowl victories and earned MVP honors: Phil Simms (Morehead State) with the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI, Kurt Warner (Northern Iowa) with the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV and Joe Flacco (Delaware) with the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

Warner also started and lost Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals as the only FCS quarterback to start twice in the Super Bowl. Also coming up on the short end were Rich Gannon (Delaware) with the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII, Steve McNair (Alcorn State) with the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV and Stan Humphries (Northeast Louisiana) with the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.

Garoppolo starred at Eastern Illinois in the Ohio Valley Conference, ranking seventh in FCS history with 118 touchdown passes and eighth with 13,156 passing yards. As a senior in 2013, he passed for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns before receiving the Walter Payton Award, which is recognized as the Heisman of the FCS and now presented by Stats Perform.

Former Illinois State defensive end Colton Underwood - future star of "The Bachelor" - explained what it was like to play against Jimmy G, who's known for his decision making and quick release.

"He's so cool and calm at quarterback," Underwood told Chicago Now. "There were times I would be in his face, tackling him, bringing him down and he's still completing a 60-yard bomb or a 15-yard pass for a first down. I remember a couple of times before plays he would look over at me and wink as if to let me know it's going to be a pass play. It's confidence like that that makes him special."

Seemingly missing from the list of FCS quarterbacks to start in the Super Bowl is Grambling State's Doug Williams, but his senior season occurred in 1977 - the year before Division I college football split into I-A (now FBS) and I-AA (now FCS). Williams went on to claim MVP honors following the Washington Redskins' win in Super Bowl XXII.

FCS fans, though, are happy to claim Williams as one of their own. Just as they do fondly with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Updated January 29, 2020

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