Zach Thompson breaks down Justin Herbert’s rise as one of the brightest young stars in the NFL.
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After only two seasons in the NFL, Justin Herbert has quickly established himself as one of the best young quarterbacks in all of football. The charismatic 24-year-old brims with the often-elusive “it” factor, and he has backed up his cool confidence with outstanding play on the field. You can get in on his rise to stardom by owning a piece of unique Herbert memorabilia with an exciting new NFT offering from Autograph and DraftKings.
To celebrate Herbert’s rise to prominence and limitless future upside, Autograph and DraftKings are teaming up to release a series of NFTs as part of the series called “The Future is …” Each athlete featured will be highlighted by three NFTs that will feature challenges that unlock utility and rewards, enhancing the NFT experience over the course of multiple weeks. Challenges allow community members exclusive access and reflect the athletes’ passions from style to shoes and cars. The designs of the NFTs were made in collaboration with up-and-coming artists to give distinct creativity to the next generation, and they look stunningly on-trend as a result. Herbert’s three NFTs are called “Electric Start,” “High Voltage” and “Rose Gold.” Make sure to check them out in the DraftKings Marketplace.
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Herbert was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, so it would seem to be destiny that he ended up at the University of Oregon, whose stadium was just a two-mile walk from his house. However, Herbert actually wasn’t very heavily recruited coming out of high school partly due to a broken leg that he suffered in the third game of his junior season. He returned and played well as a senior in high school and ultimately got scholarship offers from multiple FCS schools along with the Ducks and the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Oregon viewed Herbert as a nice local pickup but he remained off the radar since he was a multi-sport athlete in high school that didn’t enroll early or play 7-on-7 because he wanted to finish out his high school basketball and baseball seasons. Not surprisingly given his cannon of an arm, he was an outstanding high school pitcher, going 8-0 with a 0.66 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 53 1⁄3 innings during his senior year.
He opted not to try to be a two-sport athlete at Oregon, though, and entered fall practice of his freshman year in 2016 as the No. 4 QB on the depth chart. With a strong fall, he earned the backup role behind Dakota Prukop, and after just five games, Herbert was given the starting role. His very first pass was intercepted in a 70-21 loss to then-No. 5 ranked Washington, but he continued to learn from his mistakes and grow as a QB. By the end of the year, he set the school’s single-game records for total offensive yards (512), passing yards (489) and touchdown passes (6), but the team went 4-8 and did not qualify for a bowl game.
Before his sophomore year at Oregon, head coach Mark Helfrich was replaced by Willie Taggert, and the Ducks’ offense was overhauled from their famous “Blur Offense” to Taggart’s “Gulf Coast Offense.” Herbert was doing well with the transition before breaking his collarbone in a matchup against Cal. He returned in time to help them get to a bowl game and finished with 1,983 yards, 15 passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Taggert left for Florida State after that season, leaving head coach Mario Cristobal to install a third offense in as many seasons for Herbert to run. He again adjusted well and finished with 3,151 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns while leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record and a win over Michigan State in the 2018 Redbox Bowl.
In 2019, Herbert declined to enter the NFL Draft to return to Oregon for his senior season. He had his best statistical season, throwing for 3,471 yards to go with 32 passing scores and four rushing touchdowns. He led the Ducks to a 12-2 record and a win at the Rose Bowl, where he ran for three touchdowns and was named Offensive MVP. The “Rose Gold” NFT calls out that win with roses included in the design.
Herbert was drafted No. 6 overall by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2020 NFL Draft after Joe Burrow was selected No. 1 overall and Tua Tagovailoa went No. 5, making Herbert the third QB to come off the board. He had a strong preseason but began the season as the backup behind Tyrod Taylor. Taylor suffered cracked ribs in Week 1, and in Week 2, he was sidelined after the team doctor inadvertently punctured his lung while administering a pain-killing injection. Herbert stepped in and completed 22-of-31 passes for 311 yards with a touchdown and an interception while running for a second score. His Chargers fell just short, losing 23-20 in overtime to their division-rival Chiefs.
Once he became the starter, Herbert never looked back. He lost close games to Tom Brady’s Buccaneers and Drew Brees’ Saints in the next few weeks and became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for four touchdown passes on Monday Night Football. On his way to Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, he set the record for most touchdown passes for a rookie QB, became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history with multiple touchdowns in seven consecutive games and was just the fourth rookie QB to reach 4,000 passing yards. Los Angeles finished the season with four straight wins and finished the season 7-9, a two-game improvement from the previous year.
Herbert followed up on that strong rookie season and avoided any sophomore slump. Like in college, he again had to adjust to a new offensive system as Anthony Lynn was replaced by current head coach Brandon Staley and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. The Chargers got off to a fast start, going 4-1 to start the season but went 5-7 and fell just short of the playoffs after a Week 18 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Herbert broke Andrew Luck’s record for the most passing yards in his first two seasons and Dan Marino’s record for the most total touchdowns in his first two seasons. He also set franchise records with 5,014 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns while adding three more rushing touchdowns. He was also selected for his first Pro Bowl.
Coming into 2022, the Chargers are hopeful to make the playoffs in a stacked AFC West. While the offensive skill players are largely unchanged, Herbert will have an improved offensive line in front of him and hopefully a better defense as well. The Chargers brought in J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, Troy Reeder and Bryce Callahan to upgrade the defense and hopefully provide balance in their quest to return to the playoffs.
Off the field, Herbert has stayed largely out of the limelight, and he seems to enjoy it that way, staying low-key and chill with his California vibes in L.A. That will likely have to change, though, if he continues to find so much success. He is known on the field for his elite tools including an ability to make every throw and a calm fearlessness in the pocket. Herbert totaled 2,290 passing yards under pressure since 2020, the most in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats.
Herbert will look to lead the Chargers to the playoffs and compete with the free-spending Rams for the hearts and minds of Los Angeles. You can get a piece of this rising star’s popularity with the unique NFTs available in the DraftKings Marketplace. He’s a great fit for “The Future is …” series, and the value of his NFTs has a chance to blossom as he continues to grow for years to come.