Sam Darnold was once seen as the future face of NY Jets football. He was hailed as the savior — the long-awaited franchise quarterback the Jets' organization had been searching decades for.
Those days are firmly in the past, however, as Darnold has settled into a new role as a backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. Now, Darnold finds himself heading to Super Bowl LVIII as a member of the 49ers, although it's not exactly how the former USC star envisioned his first trip to the Big Game.
Darnold once had dreams of leading the Jets to the Super Bowl. He imagined that he'd one day be the quarterback to lead that long-suffering franchise to the promised land.
It's a bittersweet pill to swallow. Darnold's team is headed to the Super Bowl, fulfilling a lifelong dream for many young athletes, but if all goes according to plan, Darnold won't even step foot onto the field.
The 26-year-old lamented his failures with the Jets and reflected on his new role as a backup in a recent interview with Brian Costello of the New York Post.
"I always envisioned going deep in the playoffs with New York and being able to make a run at the Super Bowl. Obviously, that’s what you dream of as a kid. Right when I got drafted by the Jets, and still to this day it’s my goal to be able to bring a championship somewhere. At the same time, you kind of understand what it takes, even in the backup role like I am right now you understand what it takes to actually make it here and actually get it done and not just dream of it and envision it. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice."
Sam Darnold remembers his NY Jets days ahead of Super Bowl LVIII
Darnold may not have worked out with the Jets, but he officially holds one accolade that no other quarterback in his draft class has been able to capture to this point. He's the first to make it to a Super Bowl.
Not even the likes of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, selected later in the first round of the same draft, can say that. Of course, Darnold won't be there as a starter, but that fact still remains true.
Darnold spent three years as the Jets' starting quarterback from 2018-2020. He finished his Jets career with just 45 touchdowns to go along with 39 interceptions.
The Jets shipped Darnold to the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2021 season, replacing him with No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson. Neither QB's career has particularly flourished in the time since.
Darnold lasted just two years in Carolina, while Wilson is expected to leave New York this offseason. Wilson will be hoping to stick around with another team and continue his NFL career in the way that Darnold has.
Darnold's NFL journey may not have gone as planned to this point, but he'll still have the opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport this Sunday. And that's something he clearly doesn't take lightly.