John Matthew Stafford (born February 7, 1988 in Tampa, Florida) is an American football quarterback for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. He played college football at Georgia.
Stafford was born in Tampa, Florida to John and Margaret Stafford. He lived in Dunwoody, Georgia while his father attended graduate school at the University of Georgia. His family then moved to Dallas, Texas, where Stafford attended Highland Park High School, where he was coached by Randy Allen and was widely considered to be one of the best high school quarterbacks in the United States in the class of 2006.
Stafford made his varsity debut in the 2002 playoffs against Kilgore High. He lettered in baseball where he was teammates with future Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, but after a disappointing junior season in which he threw for only 1,748 yards, 18 TDs and 11 INTs, Stafford quit the baseball team to concentrate on football.
Stafford received numerous accolades including being named to the Parade All-America Team and the USA Today Pre-Season Super 25 in 2005. He also won the MVP and Best Arm awards at the 2005 EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp and was named the 2005 EA Sports National Player of the Year. Analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted, before he had even started a game at the collegiate level, that Stafford would eventually be the first pick in the NFL Draft.
|“||Matthew Stafford eventually will be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Write that down.||”|
|—Football analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. on ESPN Radio in September 2006.|
Stafford graduated from high school early and enrolled at UGA in January, where he became the first true freshman Bulldog QB to start since Quincy Carter (1998) and first out of high school to start since Eric Zeier (1991). Stafford wore number 7 at Georgia. He completed five of 12 passes for 102 yards and one TD in a Georgia spring game. Stafford debuted late in the season opener of the 2006 season against Western Kentucky and went 3 of 5 passing for 40 yards and a touchdown pass. During the season’s third game, against South Carolina, starting quarterback Joe Tereshinski III was injured, forcing Stafford to come off the bench. Although Stafford completed just 8 of 19 passes for 171 yards and three interceptions, Georgia won the game, 18-0. Against the UAB Blazers the following week, Stafford made his first career starting appearance. Georgia won this game as well, 34-0. Victories over Colorado and Mississippi ran Georgia’s record to 5-0, but the heart of the conference loomed.
The rest of the season was up and down for Stafford and the Bulldogs. Following home losses to both Tennessee and Vanderbilt, Coach Richt named Stafford the starter for the rest of the season ahead of Tereshinski. Stafford completed 20 of 32 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-24 triumph over Mississippi State, and for his efforts was named the SEC Freshmen of the Week. Statistically, he had his best game of the season against the 5th-ranked Auburn Tigers. Stafford finished the game 14-20 for 219 yards with a touchdown, as well as 83 rushing yards on 7 carries and a touchdown in Georgia’s 37-15 upset win. The following week, Stafford led the Bulldogs on a 12-play, 64-yard drive and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in Georgia’s 15-12 win over No. 16 Georgia Tech.
Stafford capped his freshman season by leading Georgia to a 31-24 come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a game in which the Bulldogs trailed 21-3 at halftime. Stafford threw for 129 yards and a second half touchdown to spark the comeback.
He threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs cruised past the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the season opener, Georgia won its first game of the season for an 11th consecutive season. Against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Dawgs avoided an 0–2 start in SEC play by escaping Bryant-Denny Stadium with an overtime win. Stafford connected with senior wide receiver Mikey Henderson on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage in OT for the winning score. He completed 11-of-18 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-long TD pass of 84 yards to Mohamed Massaquoi, which was the longest pass completion in the SEC in 2007, and a 53-yard TD pass to Henderson vs. No. 9 Florida. The wins over Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech marked the first time that Georgia had defeated all three rivals in the same season since 1982.
Stafford registered 175 yards passing and a TD pass to Sean Bailey during Georgia’s 41–10 rout of the No. 10 Hawaii Warriors in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. His final stats were 13 starts completing 194-for-348 passes for 2,523 yards (194.1 per game) and 19 TDs as well as two rushing TDs.
Stafford was chosen to Athlon’s preseason Heisman Favorites Others To Watch list. Georgia was ranked #1 in both the preseason coaches poll and the AP poll, marking the first time Georgia has ever been #1 in the preseason version of either poll; the team also entered the 2008 season with the longest active winning streak among the 66 BCS conference teams, having won its last 7 games of the 2007 season. In the final regular season game against Georgia Tech, Stafford completed 24 out of 39 attempts for 407 yards and 5 touchdowns, setting a personal record for touchdowns in a single game. Stafford finished the season with 3,459 passing yards, the second most in school history, and 25 touchdowns, the single-season record for passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown in 2008. After defeating Michigan State 24-12 and winning the MVP of the 2009 Capital One Bowl, Stafford finished his three years as at Georgia with a 3-0 record in bowl games and a 6-3 record in rivalry games (1-2 against Florida, 3-0 against Auburn, and 2-1 against Georgia Tech). Stafford chose to forgo his senior season and enter the 2009 NFL Draft.
Awards and honors
- Named SEC Freshman of the Week twice during the 2006 season.
- Named Rivals.com’s National Freshman of the Week for his performance against Auburn on November 11, 2006.
- Received the University of Georgia’s 2006 Offensive Newcomer of the Year Award.
- Named to the 2006 SEC Coaches’ All-Freshman Team.
- Named Offensive MVP of the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl
- Named All-America in 2008 by Pro Football Weekly.
- Named to Second-team All-SEC in 2008.
- MVP of the 2009 Capital One Bowl.
The “Stafford Effect”
The so-called “Stafford Effect” relates to the phenomenon seen at Stafford’s high school alma mater, Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas, from 2006–2008, where the number of seniors who applied to University of Georgia rose dramatically in the three years following Stafford’s departure to Athens, Georgia. In 2005, the year before Stafford went to Georgia, 35 seniors applied to the university, compared with 69 in 2006, 75 in 2007, and 106 in 2008. The “Stafford Effect” was chronicled in a feature story in Stafford’s hometown newspaper, Park Cities People. Stafford remarked in the story, “I’m not sure I have anything to do with it. I think people realize Georgia is a good school to watch football and have a good time, just like in Highland Park.”
2009 NFL Draft
Already after the 2008 NFL Draft, several NFL analysts predicted Stafford would be the #1 pick in the 2009 draft if he chose to leave school early. He eventually did, and on April 24, 2009, agreed to record contract terms with the Detroit Lions to become the first overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, one day before the draft was held. Prior to the draft, Stafford trained at the Athletes’ Performance Institute in Tempe, Arizona along with 40 other draft picks. The six-year contract reportedly contains $41.7 million in guaranteed money (the most guaranteed to any player in NFL history) and carries a total value of up to $78 million.Detroit Lions
On September 7, 2009, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced that Stafford would be the Lions’ permanent starting quarterback heading into the 2009 season. Regarding his decision, Schwartz stated, “This isn’t an internship or an experiment.” Stafford beat out veteran Daunte Culpepper for the starting job. Stafford made his first start in the NFL on September 13, 2009. He was one of four rookie starters for the Lions (Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and Sammie Hill) in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, and was the first Lions rookie quarterback to start the season since Greg Landry in 1968. He completed 16 of 37 passes for 205 yards and 3 interceptions; he was intercepted twice by Darren Sharper, the other time by Scott Shanle. He also ran in a 1-yard touchdown.
In Week 2, he threw his first career touchdown pass when he connected with Calvin Johnson on a 6-yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings. In week 3, Stafford led the Lions to their first victory since the 2007 season. He completed 21 of 36 for 241 yards and one touchdown in Detroit’s 19-14 win over the Washington Redskins. In Week 4, Stafford completed 24 of 36 for 296 yards with one touchdown as well as an interception before suffering a knee injury while being sacked in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 48-24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. He underwent further evaluation back in Detroit. Culpepper started in his place in week 5, and again in week 6.
On November 22, 2009, Stafford threw 5 touchdowns in a 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns, becoming the youngest quarterback ever to do so, being more than a year younger than the former record holder, Dan Marino. In a thrilling ending, Stafford threw the final touchdown pass with time expired despite suffering a separated shoulder on the previous play. In addition to the five touchdown passes, Stafford accumulated 422 yards passing—a rookie record. For his performance, Stafford won NFC Offensive Player of the Week and Pepsi Rookie of the Week. 
Stafford was placed on injured reserve on December 24. Stafford concluded his rookie season having passed for 2,267 yards and 13 touchdowns. In all 10 of the games he started for the Lions he either threw or ran for a touchdown.