Ever since quarterback Trey Lance was drafted as the third-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, speculation of competition between the rookie and veteran quarterbacks sparked.
"Everyone put us against each other," Lance said.
However, rather than driving them apart, the competition brought Lance and starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo closer together.
"Jimmy's the man," Lance added. "He's been nothing but a big brother to me this whole year. Whether it's competing with him at practice or sitting in the meeting room asking him questions, he's been nothing but great to me … He's going to be one of my best friends for my whole entire life."
From OTAs to the playoffs, Garoppolo guided Lance not only in his development in the NFL, but also in the spirit of being a professional football player. The rookie leaned on Garoppolo for advice and leadership and learned how to carry himself both on and off the field.
"I'm just thankful for the opportunity to have him be in front of me," Lance said. "I learned a lot about myself as far as what I have to continue to work on. Obviously, the leaders in this locker room are guys that inspire me every day."
The 49ers relied on Garoppolo to take the team as far as they could go while allowing Lance to develop his skill set. In the six games when Lance did see the playing field, the rookie completed 41 passes for 603 yards and five touchdowns. Yet, his most important role took place behind the scenes, on the scout team.
Lance took full advantage of the opportunities he was presented with, and each week he was tasked with simulating the team's opposing quarterback for the 49ers defense during practices. During this time, he meticulously studied quarterbacks such as Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson among eleven other elite quarterbacks in order to emulate their performance to best prepare the team's defense for the upcoming week.
"I learned a lot on scout team," Lance said. "Being able to play different playing styles that aren't necessarily my own, I gained a lot from it. From playing guys who typically stay in the pocket and then going to guys like Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields, those guys who can play off schedule at a really high level, I developed as a player."
Although it is uncertain what Lance's role will look like next season, he has proven to his team that he'll do whatever it takes to be ready each week.
"He has a bright future," Garoppolo said. "I wish him nothing but the best moving forward."