Brock Purdy

49ers QBs compare, contrast NFL journeys at Dwight Clark Legacy Series

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  • Programming Note: The Dwight Clark Legacy Series event will air Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area after "Giants Postgame Live."

Four Pro Bowl quarterbacks, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young, recently gathered on stage to share stories, life lessons and raise money for former 49ers in times of need.

Young, Jeff Garcia, Alex Smith and Brock Purdy took part in a panel discussion as part of the Dwight Clark Legacy Event, which will air Tuesday night on NBC Sports Bay Area immediately following "Giants Postgame Live."

The event raised more than $200,000 for the Golden Heart Fund, which supplies a wide variety of benefits and services for former 49ers players and their families.

Young, Garcia and Smith earned multiple Pro Bowl honors throughout their careers, while Purdy was named the NFC Pro Bowl starter last season after leading the NFL in passer rating (113.0) and yards per pass attempt (9.6).

“We’re up here — us three — because we were able to create longevity in something that very few are able to create and experience and have the success that we’ve had,” Garcia said. “And now Brock is scratching the surface. And he’s so much further ahead than probably we were at this same time frame.”

Each individual spoke about the challenges of navigating life as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. Garcia had the almost impossible assignment of following Young and four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Montana.

Then, along came Alex Smith as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

“There had never been a franchise that had a Joe and Steve,” Smith said. “That had never happened. And then you throw in Jeff. He set the franchise record for yards, so he carried it on. All of a sudden to be the No. 1 overall pick as a 20-year-old. Those are things I never dealt with. I had one college scholarship offer.

“I felt like I had to be Joe Montana, Steve Young and Peyton Manning as the No. 1 overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers. And it was a lot. I felt like I had to be perfect, and I struggled with that for my first few years.”

Smith said learning to cope with self-doubt from his on-field struggles early in his career helped him get through a life-threatening injury later in his career with Washington.

Smith was NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 before retiring on his own terms after making it all the way back to the playing field following numerous surgeries and complications from a fractured leg.

Purdy's path to the 49ers' starting lineup was unique. The final pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, Purdy took full advantage of his opportunity following injuries to Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo.

His first start came against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium, a game in which he threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another in a 35-7 victory.

“My family already booked their tickets before the season even started to come to this game to watch Tom,” Purdy said, as the theatre crowd erupted in laughter.

“For me, in the back of my mind, was, 'I get one opportunity here, let’s see what we can do.'"

Purdy said he did not feel the pressure until he began the next season as the starter.

‘Going into my second year is when the thoughts of, ‘Man, I’m starting for the San Francisco 49ers,’” he said. "And then you got a standard that Joe and Steve set and all these guys up here. I think that’s when those thoughts start rolling in. There’s a standard here, and I have to live up to that standard.”

Young summarized what he saw from the group of men who joined him on the stage at the California Theatre in San Jose.

“The NFL has a way of sifting any kind of emotional weakness you have and forces you to the sidelines,” Young said. “And the people who stay on the field don’t necessarily have the strongest arms or are the fastest guys. It’s the warriors that find a way to stay on the field.

“I knew Jeff because he followed me. I’ve known Alex for many years, and I’ve gotten to know Brock now. Everyone has a different story. But everyone was on the field. And the fact is, to stay on for the 49ers, you’re a warrior. I’ll share the stage with you any day.”

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