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Sam Darnold Turns 21 but 'Nothing's Changed'

No Time Off as Jets Rookie QB Continues to Make Strides


"That day" finally has arrived. And Sam Darnold says it feels like every other day in his young life.

"No, I don't feel any different. It's just ... it's cool to be 21," said the Jets' top pick in the April draft. "But I'm just coming here every single day ready for practice. Nothing's changed for me."

Yes, in case you missed it, Darnold came to the Jets as a green (no pun intended) 20-year-old, after redshirting as a freshman at Southern Cal, then playing two years, then entering the draft and falling to the Jets with their third overall pick.

But as significant as that day is when many young people turn 21, it's another day at the office for Sam, who gives every indication, to sideline observers and to himself, that he's getting better at his new job.

"I'm not exactly where I want to be," he said. "I know it's going to take time and it's a process. I'm aware of that. But it's exciting now to be able to understand the playbook the way I am and the strides that I'm making. I'm really excited about where I'm going."

Even when once in a while where he's going is to the sideline or back to the huddle to start a series over because he's committed a rookie mistake. That happened at today's OTA practice when, in the midst of some nice passing off of his touted quick release, he threw an interception to S Jamal Adams during team drills.

"Just made a bad read on it," Darnold said with a dry chuckle, swallowing his first-person pronouns. "Should've just dumped down to the back. Tried to force one in there. But it is what it is."

Yet the young QB saw a silver lining in being able to immediately confer with veteran signalcallers Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater.

"What makes it really cool is they're really good players, they've experienced ball, and they understand what's going on on the field all the time," he said. "It's amazing to be able to learn from them, and after that play with Jamal, talk to them about it. It's really cool to be able to do that right after the play and get their feedback."

All the stories seem to be true. Darnold's a friendly Southern California semi-surfing dude. But he's deadly serious about becoming a professional quarterback. And that came through especially when he was asked if he would celebrate his 21st birthday by raising a glass and legally quaffing his first adult beverage.

Darnold acted as if he'd never heard of such a custom.

"Probably not," he said. "I'm probably just going to stay in, go to sleep early, just like I have been every single night.

"Just watching football, playing football, it's awesome to come here every single day and do it for a living. It's pretty sweet."

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