Packers QB Jordan Love finally gets his shot Sunday

Packers quarterback Jordan Love runs against the Seahawks last month.

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The first quarterback taken in Jordan Love’s draft class, Joe Burrow, earned the richest contract in NFL history Thursday night. The third one drafted, Justin Herbert, held the title, in terms of average annual value, when he signed his own extension two months ago.

The second, Tua Tagovailoa, led the league in passer rating last year.

The three have combined to start 125 games, earn three Pro Bowl honors, win one Rookie of the Year trophy and play in one Super Bowl.

Love? His journey starts now.

“They did a great job,” said Love, the fourth quarterback taken in the first round of the 2020 draft. “But yeah, I’m definitely excited to finally get my shot.”

It’s not just that the newest character in the NFL’s best rivalry lacks the gravitas of his Packers predecessors, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. On the field, Love is a blank slate — he’s started one career game, and half the contests he’s ever appeared in were blowouts.

Off the field, Love is just as unknown to Bears fans. The first new Packers starting quarterback in 32 years isn’t a regular on television commercials and doesn’t thump his chest on social media. If he walked down Michigan Avenue, he wouldn’t be stopped.

To Mike Sanford Jr., his offensive coordinator at Utah State in 2019, Love is best buddy to his 9-year-old son Gunnar — they still FaceTime — and a bright football mind. Andrew Luck, whom Sanford coached at Stanford, a super-computer that could recite the game plan from memory. Love can’t do that, but, Sanford said, he could execute it on first try.

Love couldn’t beat Justin Fields in a sprint, but boasts a loose, free-flowing athleticism.

He has a quick wit and a slow heartbeat.

“He’s the kind of guy that lets water run off that Dri-Fit material,” Sanford said.

Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, Love’s position coach for two years in Green Bay, remembers him as a relentless note-taker who studied at the feet of Rodgers. To Bears center Lucas Patrick, a former teammate, Love was happy-go-lucky — but also deadly serious about getting better.

Love had plenty of time to. He sat behind Rodgers for three years, watching him win two MVPs and, in March 2022, sign a monster contract extension. The détente between Rodgers and Packers management lasted a year, though, and the quarterback forced a trade to the Jets in April.

Sanford said he sensed Love was “getting a little antsy last year” but managed to stay focused.

“The biggest thing I’ve seen from Jordan in that waiting room, if you will, is maturity,” he said. “He’s understood that this was his lot to start his career out — this is the lot he drew — and he had a chance to watch one of the greatest that ever played the game.”

At Notre Dame, Sanford coached DeShone Kizer, whom the Browns took in Round 2 of the 2017 draft. They started him for all but one game as a rookie, he threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns and the Browns finished 0-16. Kizer never started an NFL game again.

“It hurt me to watch him get thrust into that in Cleveland in Year 1,” Sanford said. “Conversely, I’ve seen this become just a great opportunity for Jordan to season and marinate appropriately before he was thrust into the spotlight. He’s seen it the same way, I really believe that.”

Love’s head was spinning as a rookie. In the years that followed, though, he wondered what he was gaining — and losing — from sitting out.

“There would have been a lot of lessons I probably would have learned a lot faster being thrown in the fire,” he said.

The fire starts Sunday.

“A lot of teams haven’t seen me play so they don’t really know what I’m capable of doing,” Love said. “So I’m excited to go out there and showcase that.”

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