Justin Herbert defends his return to Oregon: 'I wanted to be better'
NFL managers and scouts flocked to Indianapolis this week to watch the future of the league make their first impressions at the NFL Combine.
Amongst those in attendance, include Oregon Ducks star quarterback Justin Herbert, who is looking to solidify his draft stock with medical tests and meetings with prospective teams.
Herbert joined Mike Florio and Chris Simms on the Pro Football Live set at the NFL Combine to share his thoughts on the pre-draft process, why he returned to Oregon for his senior year, what he thinks he needs to improve on most before the NFL Draft in April & more.
Over the last two months, Herbert says he's been taking the necessary steps to focus on something he hasn't done before: Take a snap under center.
Here's more from Herbert on the pre-draft process and what he will continue to do over the next month before the NFL combine:
“A lot of it’s footwork, I’ve never taken a snap from under center, prior to these two months of training. A lot of it’s leadership, I’ve never been outside of Eugene, Oregon. That’s kind of where I’ve stayed for my whole life, so it’s all about how I mesh with a new locker room, a new culture and things like that.”
Takeaways from Senior Bowl
Herbert didn't need to go to the Senior Bowl to prove why he's one of the nation's top prospects, but his Most Valuable Player performance definitely cemented his status as one of the elite quarterbacks in the draft.
He completed 9 of 12 passes for 83 yards with one TD and no interceptions, all in the first half, en route to being named of Senior Bowl MVP.
Here’s what Herbert said he took from the Senior Bowl process:
“It’s kind of how the NFL works. I got to learn a playbook, I got to be around guys and had to call plays in the huddle. I had to go under center. So a lot of things that I didn’t do in college, I had to do there. I thought it was a great week. I really enjoyed it."
Who he idolized, wants to play against
Herbert is a Eugene, Oregon native and has been a devout Ducks fan long before he stepped on the field at Autzen Stadium. So, it's no surprise one of the players he idolized is a former Oregon Duck.
“I would say Joey Harrington. I grew up watching him. I would say to play against someone, Tom Brady.”
What led him to the NFL
Herbert has gone from homegrown talent to hometown hero in the Ducks community. But his ceiling in Eugene has been reached and it's time for Herbert to take his talents to the NFL.
When did he know exactly that he would pursue a professional football career? It just happened effortlessly, like his love for football.
“I don’t think there’s one specific moment. I think overall, over the course of my career, I feel like I’ve had enough success. I feel like I am confident with my abilities that playing at the next level is something I want to do. I want to play this game as long as I can and when I’m done playing, I want to coach. I want to be around this game as long as I can.”
Taking care of unfinished business
Herbert received a lot of criticism in 2019 for choosing to forgo his opportunity to enter the NFL Draft as a top-20 pick and return to Eugene one more year.
His final season at Oregon, however, was his best. Herbert led his team to a 12-2 record, a Pac-12 Championship and a win in the Rose Bowl, in which he won co-offensive MVP.
When asked why Herbert decided to remain at Oregon, he had a "whole lot of reasons."
“I wanted to finish the year off with the guys that I came in with. We had a great group of seniors this year. I wanted to come back, I wanted to be better. I felt like I could improve. My younger brother was going to be on the team. Growing up in Oregon, I was always a Duck fan, so there was nothing better than that.”
If we wasn't a football player
Last, but not least, for funsies, if Herbert was not playing football, what sport would he be playing?
Hint: It's not what you think a 6-foot-6 athlete might say.
“Not basketball, that’s for sure. I’d probably be playing baseball. I played shortstop for most of my life and then I hit a growth spurt so they had to move me out of of shortstop to pitcher.”