Former Highland Park Quarterback Leads Rams to Super Bowl Win
It was not looking good for the Los Angeles Rams in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. After three straight three and outs, with their tight end and Odell Beckham Jr. injured, and the running game producing nothing, the Rams seemed down and out.
Then, with 6 minutes to go, a former Highland Park quarterback got the ball in his hands with one last chance to go and win a Super Bowl.
Matthew Stafford was born in Tampa Florida. His family then moved to Georgia, and eventually settled in Dallas, Texas. Stafford attended Highland Park High School. He was coached by legendary coach Randy Allen. In 2005, Highland Park went 15-0, winning the 4A Division 1 State Championship. Stafford was the 2005 EA Sports National Player of the Year and the #1 Ranked pro-style quarterback in the nation.
Stafford graduated early from high school and then went to college to play for the Georgia Bulldogs. He started as a true freshman. Stafford led Georgia to a 9-4 record as a freshman, then 11-2 as a sophomore. As a Junior, he entered the season as a favorite for the Heisman Trophy and Georgia as the number 1 ranked team. However, the team went 9-3 and Stafford didn’t win the Heisman.
Stafford decided to turn pro after his junior season. He finished his college career with 7,731 yards passing and 51 touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions selected Stafford with the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He signed a record contract with the most ever guaranteed money. Stafford was named the starter for week 1 for the Lions, the first Lion to do so since 1968.
Stafford had an up and down career with the Lions. In 2011, he became the second-youngest NFL QB to pass for 5,000 yards, behind only Dan Marino. He led the Lions to the playoffs, and in a Wild Card Round loss, he threw for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns. He would lead the Lions to two more playoff appearances, losing in the first round both times.
Trade to Rams
On March 18th, 2021, after 12 years with the Lions, Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams got off to a fast start with Stafford, jumping out to the lead in the NFC and positioning themselves as one of the early Super Bowl favorites. However, they hit a mid-season slump, as Stafford’s play dropped off.
Though the Rams had a mid-season struggle, they finished 12-5, good enough for a playoff spot. Stafford finished the season with 4,866 yards passing, 41 touchdowns, and a league-leading 17 interceptions.
In the Wild Card round, Stafford led the Rams to a 34-11 win over the Cardinals. Then, in the next round, he led the Rams to an upset win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, 30-27. Stafford threw for 366 yards in that game and led the Rams to a game-winning drive. Then, against the San Fransico 4934s, he once again led the Rams on a game-winning 4th quarter drive with 1:46 to go. The Rams held on, 20-17, to advance to the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl started out great for Stafford and the Rams. They took a 7-0 lead on a Stafford 17-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. They then expected the lead to 13-3 on an 11-yard Stafford to Cooper Kupp touchdown pass. But from there, the Cincinnati Bengals took over.
The Bengals cut the lead to 13-10 on a second-quarter touchdown. Then, they took a 17-13 lead early in the third quarter on a 75-yard Joe Burrow to Tee Higgins touchdown. The Bengals would then add a field goal for a 20-13 lead. A Rams field goal would cut the lead to 20-16, but then both offenses would stall.
The defensive line, led by Aaron Donald, shut down the Bengals in the second half. And, the Bengals defense shut down the Rams. For most of the fourth quarter, it was looking like the game would end 20-16. But, then Matthew Stafford got the ball one last time.
Game Winning Drive
So there Stafford was, with 6:13 to go, with the ball in his hands and a chance to lead the Rams on a game-winning drive. The drive did not start well, with the Rams facing a 4th and 1 from their own 37 yard-line.
On 4th and 1, the Rams handed the ball off to Cooper Kupp, who ran for 7 yards to extend the drive. Three plays later, on third down, Stafford kept the drive alive and moved the Rams past midfield. Stafford then connected with Kupp twice to get the ball inside the 20. A Cam Akers run got the ball inside the 10. Then, after a few penalities that benefited the Rams, Stafford hit Kupp for the go-ahead touchdown, his third touchdown pass of the game.
From there, Aaron Donald closed the by dominating on defense and the Rams won the Super Bowl, 23-20.
Stafford finished with 283 yards passing and 3 touchdowns.
In addition to Stafford, 8 other L.A. Rams that played high school football in Texas also got a ring. They were: Bobby Brown II from Lamar, Bobby Evans from Allen, Justin Hollis from Martin, Travin Howard from Longview, Von Miller from DeSoto, Joe Noteboom from Plano, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from Alief Taylor, and A’Shawm Robinson from Arlington Heights.
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