Chargers team reporter Hayley Elwood sat down with former Chargers and Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens to discuss the team’s newest rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert.
One of the first things people want to point out about Herbert is that he’s not the first quarterback to be drafted by the team out of the University of Oregon. That honor goes to the legendary Dan Fouts. But in terms the last Oregon QB in general to rock the lightning bolt, that honor goes Clemens, who was most-notably the back-up for Philip Rivers from 2014-17.
Clemens spent three years as the starting quarterback for the Ducks from 2003-05. In his three seasons at the helm, Clemens threw for 7,555 yards 61 touchdowns to 24 interceptions, including a 19-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a senior in ‘05. He also added six scores on the ground. His passing yardage was good for third-best in school history at the time he left the university.
So what note-worthy things did Clemens have to say about the young Herbert? A lot of good things, actually.
“I’m excited for him on both sides,” Clemens said. “I’m excited for the Chargers because I think they’re getting a really good, solid player. Obviously, he’s got the size, he’s got the athleticism. He’s obviously smart enough when you look at his GPA. I’m excited for the Chargers because I think he’s going to be a good fit.”
While subjective matters aren’t usually what separates good teams from bad, it’s still a positive knowing Herbert is walking into a quarterback room that consists of two other guys with fairly polished pedigrees and winning mentalities. And yes, Tyrod Taylor has a winning record in the NFL.
“That’s important for a young guy to come into a quarterback room that’s going to be welcoming and has good dudes in it, and that sounds like it’s certainly the case there.”
We all know Tom Telesco and Anthony Lynn covet players with clean records and exceptional character. If you look at their entire draft class this year, that’s the case for everyone top to bottom. When it comes to Herbert and his off the field actions, Clemens gushed about what others had to say about the rookie.
“You watch him in an interview, he’s well-spoken. I still am in touch with people at the university and you ask (questions like,) what type of guy he is, is he a good leader? Is he a good teammate? How is he in the community? And Justin was unanimous and checked all the boxes of all of those (questions.).”
Fans and draft analysts, alike, pointed at several poor passing performances by Herbert this past season as proof he can’t handle the big games or that he fails to come through for the team when they need him to be. To Clemens, that wasn’t the case at all.
“I don’t think he went into that one thinking he was going to run for three touchdowns and not throw any. But he found a way to win, and he found a way to will his team to win by whatever means necessary. I think that showed a lot of grit.
“But ultimately, your job is to find a way to win by whatever means necessary and he did that. I think that was the thing that jumped off the screen to me.”
Finally, Clemens loves the fact that Herbert will be wearing his old number from his time with the Bolts. Although he knows it’s because he wore the same thing at Oregon, he still thinks it’s cool to see it being worn again by someone on the team.
“I was snooping around because my son has a birthday coming up and he’s asked for a couple of jerseys. I was looking and I typed in Justin’s name just to kind of check and I saw the jerseys come up. The new jerseys look nice, by the way! So it was cool to see him and his name on it, and it’ll be fun to watch him go out there eventually when he gets his time.”