In July, the LA Chargers signed QB Justin Herbert on a five-year contract extension worth $262.5 million, making him the highest paid QB in history – but what is behind this decision, and why do the Chargers have so much pinned on the handsome, reticent player barely out of his rookie season?
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Before we delve into Herbert, let’s look at the LA Chargers.
Who are the LA Chargers?
The LA Chargers play in the NFL and their home games are played at the SoFi Stadium, which the team shares with the LA Rams in Inglewood, California.
The team was founded in 1959, and played their first season in the American Football League in 1960.
In 1961, the team relocated to San Diego, and played as the San Diego Chargers for decades, winning the AFL Championships in 1963.
One of the best performances of the Chargers was in 194, when they won the AFC Championship and a place in the Superbowl but lost 49-26 to the San Francisco 49ers.
2017 saw the Chargers return to LA, and since then they have worked hard to remain in the top flight of the AFC West, finishing 2nd last year and earning a place in the Wild Card Playoff, which they unfortunately lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-30.
With the contract extension for Justin Herbert, the LA Chargers are showing that they have big plans for the upcoming season, putting their introverted quarterback at the forefront of their plans for domination.
Why Justin Herbert?
Born in March 1998, Justin Herbert developed his amazing throwing arm in his early life, competing in the softball throw tournaments from the age of 7 and winning again and again. The movement into football was almost a no-brainer, and by his senior year of high school, he was named First Team All-State and awarded the Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year at Sheldon High School.
College saw him named as QB2 when he started at Oregon, but he soon became a starter, as his freshman season saw him equalling or setting records for things like passing yards and TD passes. While the 2016 season for his college team wasn’t exactly full of glory, it wasn’t for a lack of talent in their QB, at least. The rest of his college career saw him win the Rose Bowl, the Redbox Bowl, and many personal accolades, including Academic All-American for his 4.08 grade point average in Biology.
When it came to the draft, Herbert was picked sixth overall in the first round, and named as backup QB to Tyrod Taylor. His arrival was watched with interest; his play style and movie-star good looks made him seem to be the ultimate sports personality.
This seemed to be spot on for the fans, as he became the starting QB in just the second game of the year. His awesome skills and extensive power in his throw saw him named as Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020.
It was in 2021 that Herbert really came to life, smashing franchise records across the field – from completing 5014 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, 63 carries for 302 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in just one season.
What is the secret sauce that makes Herbert so good – and worth so much?
Well, there is that unnaturally good throwing arm. Even his own teammates sometimes are awed by just how far – and how straight - he can throw. Despite this, he is steady and uncomplicated, humble, and quiet.
Unlike some of the other quarterbacks in the NFL, Herbert seems completely disinterested in the trappings of the position. He Is noticeably uncomfortable in front of a microphone, uneasy when put in the spotlight, and often deflecting personal questions to make them about the performance of the team.
Does this make him a better player? Perhaps, he is certainly more focused on his play, running practice drills until they are perfect with that attention to detail that even his teammates are fascinated with.
This ultra focused player looks the part, with his handsome features and good hair – but the only thing that matters is the football. He has no delusions about his position, often the only player who tidies after himself in the locker room and packs his own holdall before away games.
His third season saw Herbert come out of himself a bit more. Maybe through maturity or being more comfortable with his important position – whatever it is, he was more relaxed in interviews, making jokes on camera, and actively encouraging his teammates.
Whatever the secret is, it has transformed Justin Herbert’s career – he was scheduled to earn $4.23 million in his fourth year for the Chargers, and thanks to his new contract that number is about $52.5 million.