Purdy's NFL success no surprise to friend, NBA guard Haliburton


Four years ago, then-18-year-olds Brock Purdy and Tyrese Haliburton entered Iowa State together to play collegiate football and basketball for the Cyclones, respectively. 

Fast-forward to the present day, the now 22-year-olds are leading their teams in major ways at the professional level in the NFL with the 49ers and in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers. 

The two became close in college and remain very good friends today. Haliburton, in his third year in the NBA, spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Carlos Ramirez to talk about how their relationship developed. 

“We came into the school together as freshmen. Him on the football team, me on the basketball team so the football and basketball team have to be there in the summer, so I think we just naturally met through being there together,” Haliburton said. “We don’t talk a ton these days obviously because we’re doing two different things, but I got a lot of love from Brock. I love to see what he’s doing. 

“I think we’re just two dudes who were having success at the university at the same time, so naturally, we were grouped together being freshmen, sophomores leading our teams. So just two guys who were thrown into leadership roles early and had to be prepared to take on that task and that’s what we shared in common.” 

Purdy, who was drafted by San Francisco with the very last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has gone from rookie third-string quarterback to QB1 in a matter of three months.  

When second-year QB Trey Lance went down with a season-ending ankle injury, Purdy became the backup to veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo. And when Garoppolo sustained his own foot injury, that will sideline him for at least the rest of the regular season, Purdy found himself as the new starter under center for San Francisco. 

The young QB certainly has made the most of the opportunity, seemingly shocking the NFL world with his poised and confident way of leading the 49ers’ offense

Haliburton, however, wasn’t surprised to see how well Purdy has performed in his new role.   

“The funny thing about Brock is, Brock is like Batman; you never saw that guy around. I’d see him going to class, getting on the bus, leaving class, going to the facility, after that, never saw that guy,” Haliburton said. “Only saw him going to gym or going to class. So he’s just really diligent about what he did. I would always ask guys out like, ‘Oh, where’s Brock at?’ and [they would say] ‘He’s just at the crib chilling,’ so he’s very diligent about what he does and he works really hard and everyone can speak on that. 

“I think anybody who’s been around him for any amount of time can talk about how hard of a worker he really is. And obviously, the opportunity that he’s getting right now is due to two guys getting hurt, but there’s no question in my mind that he’s prepared to take on this role. I’m just really excited for Brock to get out there and be able to succeed.” 

Purdy was borderline perfect in his first NFL start against the 49ers’ 35-7 win over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, completing 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, and he also added one rushing TD. 

As the entire NFL world is now drooling over the 22-year-old, Haliburton reflected on how they got here. 

“I think the funny part is I had some friends in town the other day and we were talking about this. There are times where I have to take a step back in my life and be like, ‘Wow, I’m really in the NBA,’” Haliburton told Ramirez. “There are players in the league who I’ve looked up to for the majority of my life that are my peers now and who know me and have respect for me and have conversations with me when they see me. 

“And then you see Tom and Brock embracing each other after the game the other day and I’m like ‘What is going on?’ It’s so crazy the lives we live. We had the opportunity to go to college together, make big strides in our individual sports and now be able to go to the professional level and both have success. So I’m just really excited for him.” 

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Haliburton added that the Purdy he witnessed on TV playing against a legend like Brady is the same person he got to know in college, claiming Purdy is “probably the best quarterback” in Iowa State school history. 

Purdy’s college success and mature mindset have helped prepare him for this moment with the 49ers, Haliburton believes. 

At the end of the day, Purdy still is a rookie and mistakes will happen. But is the Purdy sensation sustainable? Can the 22-year-old actually lead San Francisco to a deep playoff run and to Super Bowl LVII? 

Haliburton seems to have no doubt. 

“I would say the biggest thing for me is knowing Brock, having watched him for two years, is that he is true to his work. He works really, really hard,” Haliburton said. “I think as a human being and as an athlete, you have times where you struggle and that happens. 

“He’s just somebody I’ve always admired the way that he responds to bad games, bad possessions, whatever the case may be. I’ve always admired the way that he can get over those things and move on.”

Born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Haliburton is, by default, a Green Bay Packers fan. But at the end of the day, his loyalty to his friend runs deep. 

“I’m a Brock Purdy fan,” he concluded. “I want to see the 49ers go as far as possible; I want to see Brock succeed.” 

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