Justin Herbert finally found a statistic worthy celebrating: His grade-point average.
Oregon’s star quarterback has already passed for 3,919 yards with 34 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in 17 games over the last two seasons.
Herbert, who typically deflects praise and credits teammates for success, didn’t seem to mind stepping into the spotlight on Friday at the Jaqua Center, where he was recognized for earning first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors last year.
The 6-foot-6, 231-pound junior is carrying a 4.06 GPA in biology.
“Doing my best in academics is something that’s important to me as a person,” Herbert said. “Taking care of what’s put in front of me with school is something that I really try to focus on.”
Last year former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who will be one of the first players selected in the NFL draft later this month, said “football and school don’t go together,” due to the amount of time required to thrive at both.
Herbert understands the point Rosen was trying to make.
“It’s tough. It’s really tough playing football and school. It hasn’t been easy,” Herbert said. “I think I’ve done a good job of figuring out what works for me. I’ve found a schedule and ways that I can manage both football and school.”
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said he encourages players to take on a rigorous academic load, if they believe they can handle it.
“The worst thing we could do is have them regress, settle and not challenge themselves,” Cristobal said. “That’s what we want, and the best way to promote betterment is through competition and partnership among the players and the staff. This is front and center at our team meeting. You can only imagine how that raises the stakes for all those who are kind of hinging and teetering and are below or just below the 4.0.
“Every time they walk into this building, one of the first things they will see is Justin’s name. That resonates strong.”
A year ago, Willie Taggart reopened the quarterback competition and challenged Herbert to come out of his shell and be more of a vocal leader.
The Ducks were 6-2 in games Herbert started last season, but the former Sheldon High standout’s sophomore campaign was interrupted by a broken clavicle.
Herbert is interested in medical school, but right now he’s on a similar career path to Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, who graduated from Oregon and is now the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans.
“I gotta feeling he’ll be pulling a couple trophies of his own,” Cristobal said of Herbert. “He has the best example to emulate in the world in Marcus Mariota. It’s just another example of tradition growing stronger and bigger. You just can’t say enough good things about it.
“It’s what you want for every student-athlete, it’s what you want for your own children. Hat’s off to Justin, phenomenal job.”
Herbert is only the ninth first-team academic All-American in program history and the third quarterback, joining Bill Musgrave (1990) and Joey Harrington (2001).
In addition to athletic director Rob Mullens, Cristobal and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, Herbert’s mom and grandmother were on hand for the ceremony in which his name plate, etched on the floor inside the lavish learning center for the university’s athletes, was unveiled.
Herbert was thinking about his maternal grandfather, Rich Schwab, a wide receiver on Oregon’s 1963 Sun Bowl team, who died in January at the age of 75.
“He’s one of the best men that I know. He’s a role model to not just me but to everyone that he met,” Herbert said of Schwab, whose initials were also etched into his grandson’s floorboard. “He was a great person and a guy that I will never forget and a guy that I aspire to be like.”