SANTA CLARA — When wide receiver Willie Snead entered the NFL from the New Orleans Saints, he quickly established himself as one of Drew Brees' favorite targets.
Snead caught 141 passes for 1,879 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons as a sure-fire Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback.
When Snead started seeing more and more of 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy last season, the experience flashed back to him.
“He reminds me of little things about Drew,” Snead told NBC Sports Bay Area.
First, there are physical tools and similar physical stature. Brees was listed as 6 feet tall and 209 pounds. Purdy checks in at 220, he's 6-1.
“Drew never had the strongest arm, but he had great accuracy,” Sneed said. “He knew when to let go of the ball to ensure he caught it quickly, and Block had similar characteristics. Although he doesn't have the strongest arm , you can predict that your opponent will be open.”
Another favorable comparison is the drive and commitment to be great, Snead said.
“I think Brock and Drew have a lot in common in the mental part of the game and as competitors,” Snead said. “For a long time, my rivals were Tom Brady and Drew. I got to see them up close. When I look at Brock, I'm like, 'Yeah.'
“I think Brock has a lot of time to grow and become that player. Just watching Drew as a part of that for three years, you can see his level of play can get there. Last year, I told him, “Brock, you're the one.'' He proved that to everyone this season. ”
Purdy set 49ers franchise records with 4,280 passing yards and a passer rating of 113.0. He was named a starter in the NFC Pro Bowl.
He said he was happy to hear Snead compare him to Brees, whom he has long admired.
What separated Purdy at almost every level was an unmeasurable trait. Even when he was a star high school player in Arizona, there weren't many Division I college programs chasing after him.
He wrote the following statement about himself on a job site: “I have the drive and passion to win any game. I'm a rare athlete who coaches with authority. My leadership and competitiveness have always set me apart from other quarterbacks.”
His four years as a starter at Iowa State made him more likely to be the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. And once he took the field as a member of the 49ers, coach Kyle Shanahan knew he had found his player.
“Honestly, since I was a kid I was watching the games on TV and I wanted to be in those games,” Purdy said when asked about his competitive drive.
“When I was a kid, there was a moment when I wanted to play in the biggest stadium possible and feel the thrill of the match. So I fell in love with this game from an early age.”
Competition was part of the Purdy family. His father, Sean, pitched in the minor leagues for eight seasons. His younger brother Chuba played quarterback at Florida State and Nebraska before entering the transfer portal and receiving multiple offers.
“As time goes on, you become more competitive, and I think that carries over,” Purdy said. “And when you play in the NFL, you used to watch that game as a kid, and now you get to live it. Why not give it your all?
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