Jarrett Stidham was at home studying film on Saturday when he got the news.
The Patriots had released veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, officially making Stidham their No. 2 guy behind 42-year-old, six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady. There was no question whether Stidham would make the 53-man roster, but because the Patriots felt comfortable letting Hoyer go reflects growing confidence in their fourth-round draft pick.
“I’m very excited about the role, obviously,’’ Stidham said once the move was finalized.
The promotion capped a busy summer for Stidham, who was drafted 133rd overall in April, got married in June, honeymooned in July, and turned 23 in August. The Kentucky native moved into a new home with his wife, Kennedy, the oldest of Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown’s four daughters.
“Lots of stuff going on, but, at the same time, a lot of blessings,’’ Stidham said.
Amid the milestones, Stidham has spent several off-days the same way he spent last Saturday: putting in work outside of Gillette Stadium. The hours are seemingly paying off, as he logged the best preseason for a rookie quarterback under coach Bill Belichick. In four games, Stidham completed 61 of 90 passes for 731 yards and four touchdowns, outshining first-year passers of years past in Danny Etling (2018), Jacoby Brissett (2016), Jimmy Garappolo (2014), Ryan Mallett (2011), and Hoyer (2009).
Of course, it’s early. Stidham’s rookie buzzcut, courtesy of Brady and Hoyer, serves as a reminder he’s the newbie in Foxborough. Although it may be premature to make assumptions about the future, the feedback on Stidham has been promising.
“He’s a good kid,’’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “He loves football. He’s a hard worker. He comes in every day, he makes mistakes every day, like they all do as rookies, and he gets better. He takes coaching, he listens well, and he can improve from one day to the next if he takes the things that we’re talking about in the meeting room and apply them on the field.’’
For Stidham, that’s the main objective: to get better.
“This is obviously a huge opportunity for me, but the work’s not done,’’ he said. “I got to continue to come in here and work my butt off everyday to continue to improve.’’
Among those who have helped Stidham navigate the transition to the NFL is none other than Hoyer. After spending two stints with the Patriots, Hoyer acquired a unique understanding of how to operate both as Brady’s backup and as the scout team quarterback. Stidham called the 33-year-old “a true pro’’ and expressed gratitude for Hoyer’s willingness to share his knowledge.
“I can’t speak highly enough about Brian,’’ he said. “He really helped me a ton, especially when I first got here and got going in OTAs and minicamp and all that kind of stuff. He was here every day for me and helping me in every way that he could.’’
As Stidham continues to adapt to his new job and life in New England, however, there is a taste of familiarity in the Patriots’ locker room: running back Damien Harris.
“We played [football] together when we were like 8 years old,’’ Harris said. “Jarrett doesn’t like to admit it. We also played on the same little league team.’’
Both Stidham and Harris grew up in Kentucky, and forged a connection that would continue throughout high school, where they were teammates in an All-American game, and college, with Harris at Alabama, making them opponents in the Iron Bowl. Harris, who was drafted 87th in April, said the pair FaceTimed once they found out they would be reunited in the NFL.
“It’s been great continuing our friendship and seeing where we started to where we ended up now,’’ Harris said. “To me, he’s still the same guy. He loves having fun. We joke around a lot. We get on each other’s heads sometimes, just messing around with each other. But we’ve been friends for a really long time and obviously that’s going to continue.’’