Less than 60 seconds before kickoff, Justin Herbert heard his name called.
The Los Angeles Chargers sixth-overall pick received very little warning of Tyrod Taylor’s pain injection mishap that would ultimately puncture his lung and leave him sidelined for weeks. There was no time to overthink it, it was go-time.
“I was walking down the sideline ready to cheer on the offense because I knew we were getting the ball to start the game. I was saying ‘let’s go offense, let’s go offense.’ Coach Lynn walks up to me and says Justin ‘you’re in’… I was looking around and I really couldn’t believe it,” Herbert tells The Dan Patrick Show. “And then out of nowhere, Coach Hamilton and Coach Steich and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks’ coach, they were there too...
It was now or never for the Oregon product, who went out against the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs and threw 22-for-31 for 311 yards and a touchdown while also adding 18 yards and a score on the ground.
It was a rare and impressive debut, but Herbert was poised in his first NFL start. The unexpectedness of it all took away some pre-game jitters too.
“There were both positives and negatives about it,” Herbert said. “Not having to worry, not having to think about it was great, going out there and playing football was awesome. But I would have loved to have gotten some more team reps that week in practice. So, I didn’t really to rep the plays that we were going with and so having had those during the week, I think that would have been a little bit better.”
Not many forecasted that Herbert wouldn’t see the field in his rookie season. Analysts narked on the former Duck’s leadership skills, temperament, and whether he was pro-ready. It only took the Chargers three games to realize a new era had begun and Herbert was their permanent starter.
It’s one of those mind-boggling events that you’d expect to see in an ESPN 30-for-30. The 22-year-old said he didn’t anticipate it happening so fast.
“No, we had no idea,” Herbert said of starting under center. “Coach Hamilton and I, we talked about being ready for when the time comes, but we had no idea. So, we just had to prepare like I was the starter and quickly enough, second week, was pretty quick.”
Herbert is coming off his first win as a pro after finishing 27-of-43 for 347 yards for three touchdowns while adding 66 yards rushing and a rushing TD over the Jaguars on Sunday.
But the rookie knows there’s more to learn and the best is yet to come.
“I’ve for sure gotten better over the past couple weeks and I think there’s always room for improvement,” Herbert said.