SANTA CLARA – Jimmy Garoppolo might have known few names for quite a while after coming to the 49ers in the middle of last season, but it did not take him long to be recognized as a leader.
Now, entering his first full season with the organization and secure for the future with a five-year, $137.5 million contract, Garoppolo appears comfortable with his role as the leader.
Garoppolo said his leadership style can be traced back to his days at Rolling Meadows High School in suburban Chicago. He played linebacker until his junior year and that shaped how he viewed his role when he made the transition to quarterback.
“That defensive mindset kind of helps you as a quarterback because you can relate to everybody,” Garoppolo said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.
Garoppolo’s nature makes it possible for even undrafted rookies coming to the organization to feel comfortable enough in his presence to get in front of the crowds at training camp to lead pre-practice chants of “Jim-my! Jim-my!” Not even the highest-paid player in team history and the face of the franchise is above being the target of some good-natured mocking from players at the low end of the roster.
It is difficult to imagine a rookie -- or any young player -- performing the same stunt aimed at the quarterback at Garoppolo's previous place of employment with the New England Patriots.
“There’s an element of, you want to be the guy as the quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “But you also want to be one of the guys. I’ve always thought that way since I became a quarterback because I was a defensive guy.
“I never thought of myself as an out-there, head-guy type of thing. I think that’s done me well, becoming a quarterback and thinking that way.”
Garoppolo also credits the makeup of the 49ers’ roster as welcoming and open-minded enough to allow a player from the outside to immediately fit in.
“We have a good locker room in there,” Garoppolo said. “It makes being a leader a lot easier when you have a good locker room and guys will follow you and other guys lead their position groups or their side of the ball. We have a solid group and everybody is kind of thinking the same way.”
The 49ers finished last season 6-10. But when Garoppolo took over as the starting quarterback, the 49ers went 5-0 to set the stage for plenty of optimism entering the upcoming season.
Garoppolo is being counted upon to perform at a high level and earn his paycheck. He said he too focused on his own responsibilities and expectations to feel the outside pressure.
“I’ve always held myself to a high standard,” Garoppolo said. “I’d probably be more disappointed in myself than other people would be if we didn’t do so well on a certain thing.”