Chargers QB Justin Herbert's Family Are Proud of His Performance Last Sunday
It was a typical Sunday afternoon. Mark Herbert sat on the couch watching "NFL Redzone," waiting for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Denver Broncos game’s conclusion. The Los Angeles Chargers facing the Super Bowl defending champs, the Kansas City Chiefs, was the primetime game at 1:25 p.m., so he would be able to watch the game in Eugene, Oregon.
It was the second career game of his son, Justin. He knew he wasn't going to play, but to see small glimpses of him during the broadcast was enough for him.
The Chargers win the coin toss and decide to receive the ball. All of a sudden, Mark noticed something different.
"Son of a gun there's Justin's face, and you can tell he's going onto the field," said the surprised father. "I yelled to Holly (his wife) she was in the other room and I said Holly 'he is starting' she says 'WHAT?!' And she comes running in, and we looked at each other like we just both took a punch to the heart because we had absolutely no idea. Now looking back and finding out that Justin had no knowledge, it makes absolutely perfect sense. We had no clue."
Their regular Sunday shifted to a crazy Sunday.
Mark says he received a text from Justin's older brother, Mitchell, who is studying to be a doctor at Columbia University, asking him if he was watching the game. He had his first exam on Monday morning but decided to put the books down to watch his little brother live out his dream. Mitchell ended up doing a great job on his first exam.
His younger brother, Patrick, came almost running home to watch his big brother start in his first NFL game. He is a tight end at the University of Oregon.
The Herbert's watch Justin lead the offense down the field 79 yards in his first NFL game. The offense gets down to the four-yard line. Herbert takes the snap and goes to his right, sees a window, and runs it in for his first career touchdown.
"I don't know if I could describe it, I think everybody there we just jumped up like 'Oh my gosh he just scored in NFL touchdown,' almost indescribable," said Mark.
He said Justin's first career touchdown reminded him of his first collegiate touchdown. The Ducks where getting blown out by Washington State. He goes in for the starting quarterback at the time, Dakota Prukop. The Ducks are at the four-yard line; Justin snaps the ball, goes to his right, sees a little daylight, and takes off to score his first rushing touchdown.
The next week he would start his first career game and never look back.
"We were so excited he's in the game," said Mark. "You get to take him down the field, and by the way, you get icing on the cake you get to run it in. It's just a dream come true. Again I’m so happy for him because that's what he wants to do."
For Justin, it’s also a dream come true. When the Herbert boys were growing up, they rooted for the Chargers. Justin's grandfather from his mother's side was from San Diego. At the same time, both of Mark's parents grew up in Southern California.
The Southern California roots are deep in the Hebert family. So, the boys gravitated to the only Southern California football team because Eugene doesn't have an NFL team. There was a jersey for each of them. One was a Drew Brees, LaDainian Tomlinson, and David Boston.
Herbert played his high school ball at Sheldon High School under the watchful eye of head coach Lane Johnson, who had known the Herbert family for some time. He coached Justin in eighth-grade basketball, but Sunday was special for him as well.
"It was very emotional for me, you know," said Johnson. "In fact, I texted his dad, and when Justin scored the touchdown you know right out of the gate, I said, 'I got tears in my eyes,' which is weird, but I was really proud. It was it was emotional."
Johnson said that Justin sometimes pouted after basketball games, but he turned it into leadership once he got to high school. Johnson saw the quarterback mature not only in his game but as a person as well.
Johnson said he wasn't happy with what was being said about his former quarterback during the draft process. That he wasn't a vocal leader, or he was too quiet.
"Very unfair!" said Johnson forcefully. "See because I know there's different ways to show leadership, and Justin played in a high school football program where you lead by example, not by pounding your chest and whatnot.
“I know Oregon was really concerned when he first went that you know he wasn't vocal enough. I said 'hey, but there's different kinds of leadership. You want to get a winner and a kid who is going to get in the huddle and take command, that what you're gonna get. You're not gonna get it a guy that's ra-ra you know, jumping up and down only when the offense scores a touchdown."
Herbert is different. He isn't the vocal leader, but what can't be denied is that he won at Oregon. In 2017, he won the Offensive Team MVP. In 2018, he won the Skeie's Award (MVP team award). In 2019, He won the Williams V. Campbell Trophy (the academic student Heisman trophy). In 2020, he won the Rose Bowl and was the MVP.
Johnson said he was very impressed with Justin's first touchdown throw of the game.
"It was awesome," explained Johnson. "It sure looked like he looked the corner off because they split the safety, so the safety looked one way, and Justin threw the other. He threw it on a dime like he usually does."
The Chargers ended up losing the game in overtime 23-20, but Herbert was a winner because he showed that he could play in the NFL.
"I texted him after the game, and he texted back that evening," said Johnson. "He just said 'coach it's the most fun I've had playing football in a long time,' which I thought was very enlightening. You know here's a kid that it was for sure was under the radar going into college and turns himself into a first-round draft pick and has a great game other than a couple of mistakes in his pro debut."
The only mistake Justin made was when the team was on the Chiefs side of the field. He snapped the ball ran to his left side; he had a running lane but threw against his body and was intercepted.
He also had a chance in the first quarter to put the Bolts up 14-0 when he threw a pass to Mike Williams, who had pro bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu beat, but he left it hanging a little too long, and he batted it down.
"I go back to the Honey Badger (Mathieu's nickname) breaking up the throw to Mike Williams," explained Mark. "You know when you think OK, Justin, you get away with that in college, you don't get away with that for the Honey Badger, and you know he's gotta lead him more. We're just happy he's doing what he's doing he's holding up his end of the bargain. Hopefully, him getting the team in a position where they could win."
His son will have a chance to win his first NFL game on Sunday when the Carolina Panthers come to SoFi Stadium because of the injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
For now, the calm Sundays Herbert's thought they may have are now crazy days because now they know that Justin is starting this Sunday for the time being.
The Herbert's will always remember the day they were surprised to see number 10 run on the field and take his first NFL snap.
"It was a dream come true," said Mark.