SANTA CLARA — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s hand might feel heavy when he throws his first Super Bowl pass next Sunday.
His fingers are already weighed down by two rings.
The 49ers’ starter didn’t take a snap for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI or Super Bowl LIII, but he watched the games from the sideline as Tom Brady cemented his legacy.
This year, Garoppolo will take the field with a chance to lead an offense on the biggest stage in sports and he’s eager to make the most of it.
“These don’t come around very often, so you’ve got to take advantage of them when you get them,” Garoppolo said.
For Garoppolo, trips to the Super Bowl seem to come around more frequently than they do for most NFL players. This year’s game marks his third in six years, but his first with a chance to actually impact the outcome.
Most 49ers will experience the Super Bowl for the first time in their careers, but Garoppolo has the advantage of understanding the fanfare, the media obligations and the spotlight that comes with the opportunity. He also has the ability to draw on his memories of watching a six-time Super Bowl champion, Tom Brady, prepare for the matchup.
“Everyone says it should be like another game, but just the way that he actually did it,” Garoppolo said. “Up close and personal, picking up everything I could and seeing how he went about his business, obviously it worked out the two times that I was there with him. I’ll try to transfer that over to my game.”
Brady, a three-time Super Bowl MVP, exited the playoffs early this year after a Wildcard Weekend loss to the Tennessee Titans, but the Patriots’ defeat might not be the last time the NFL hears from the San Mateo native this year.
Garoppolo said calling Brady and asking for advice ahead of next Sunday’s game against the Chiefs would be “a good idea” and he “might” follow through with it. If the two end up talking and Garoppolo shines in his on-field Super Bowl debut, there will be no shortage of coverage from NFL pundits.
If the 49ers’ quarterback wants to keep things in-house, previous Super Bowl winners Joe Montana and Steve Young have been around the team in recent weeks and are expected to be present in Miami.
“I love that we keep it in the family and everything, when those older players come back and whether they talk to us or whether you see them on the sidelines, having them around is cool,” Garoppolo said. “It just makes you realize the history of this organization.”
In all likelihood, any words of wisdom Brady, Montana or Young might offer to Garoppolo won’t make as much of an impression as what head coach Kyle Shanahan tells the 49ers’ signal-caller in the days ahead.
Shanahan is returning to a Super Bowl for the first time since Brady engineered the greatest comeback in the game’s history against a Falcons offensive coordinated by Shanahan that jumped out to a 28-3 lead. The trust that Garoppolo and Shanahan have built with one another has keyed a 49ers’ offense that’s been almost impossible to contain in the team’s first two postseason games.
Garoppolo hasn’t received as much credit as most quarterbacks do for his team’s victories due to the incredible 49ers’ rushing attack, but that doesn’t make his teammates any less confident in his abilities.
“We were doing what we needed to do to win the game and that’s the main point of an NFL football game,” left tackle Joe Staley said. “I think he’d be pretty sad if he threw for 450 (yards) and we lost.”