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5 Things to Know About Vikings New QB Sam Darnold

EAGAN, Minn. – Sam Darnold agreed to terms with the Vikings, the team announced Wednesday as the 2024 new league year began.

Darnold most recently served as the 49ers backup quarterback behind Brock Purdy. When San Francisco clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, the team elected to rest Purdy in the regular-season finale and started Darnold. He was 16-of-26 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown, as well as a rushing touchdown, in the 49ers 21-20 loss to the Rams.

Originally the third overall pick by the Jets in 2018, Darnold spent his first three NFL seasons in New York before being traded to the Panthers in April 2021. He was with Carolina for two seasons before becoming a free agent in the spring of 2023, when he signed with the Niners.

Darnold has 66 NFL games and 56 career starts under his belt. Over six seasons, he is 1,082-of-1,811 passing for 12,064 yards, 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions with a 78.3 passer rating.

The Vikings signed Darnold in the wake of **parting ways** with Kirk Cousins in free agency.

Here are five things to know about the newest Vikings quarterback:

  1. Former Trojan

Darnold attended USC, where he started for a season-and-a-half before declaring his eligibility for the 2018 NFL Draft.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2017, Darnold was an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. He helped guide the Trojans to the Pac-12 Conference Championship with a 31-28 defeat of Stanford. The win earned USC a spot in the Cotton Bowl, where Darnold threw for 356 yards; the team lost 24-7 to Ohio State, however.

  1. California kid

Darnold was raised in San Clemente, California, where he played high school baseball, football and basketball.

He played receiver and linebacker primarily, though as a sophomore he stepped in at QB after the starter was injured. Darnold later became the full-time starting quarterback for San Clemente where, as a senior, he racked up 3,000 passing yards and 39 touchdowns – along with 800 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.

Darnold was rated a four-star recruit by

View photos of QB Sam Darnold who joined the Vikings during free agency.

  1. From athletics to Hollywood, a talented bloodline

Darnold is far from the only athlete in his family, especially on his mother's side – though most of his relatives, including his sister Franki, shined on the volleyball court rather than the football field.

His late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was a member of the United States 1964 Olympics volleyball team. His grandmother, Betty Hammer, played volleyball – including training with the U.S. National Team – and softball. His uncle, Dan Hammer, played volleyball at Long Beach State, and three cousins (Allie, Michele and A.J. Hammer) also all played volleyball collegiately. His great grandmother, Juanita, was a well-recognized tennis player in Southern California.

After his athletic career, Dick Hammer went on to appear in films, television (most notably in Emergency!) and commercials. His most notable role was playing the Marlboro Man in ads from 1970-80.

  1. Once interviewed Will Ferrell

During his time at USC, Darnold co-hosted a "Season of Sam" podcast with Yogi Roth. In November 2017, the duo interviewed USC alum and notable actor and comedian Will Ferrell.

"He's funny dude. I'm a huge Will Ferrell fan," Darnold later told ESPN. "He's just a normal dude. A lot of people think, 'Oh, he must be hilarious all the time.' Nah, he's just kind of chill. Very relaxed dude, but when he sees an opportunity to make a joke or say something funny, he always does. He's a good dude."

  1. Calm from day one

Even as a child, Darnold wasn't one to be easily rattled.

His mother Chris has told the story of Darnold, at age 5, playing on a boogie board and being pulled 200 yards into the ocean by an unexpected rip current.

Chris recounted the anxiety-ridden moments to ESPN’s Molly Knight in 2017, noting that she "pleaded with a lifeguard to dive in after her son," explaining he was much younger than his physical size may suggest.

But though Chris understandably was panicked, Sam never was. Rather, he rode a wave back in.

Knight wrote:

Each second feels like 60. But soon, a giant wave forms behind the little redhead on the bright yellow boogie board. Mom holds her breath as it crests. He catches it and bounces along the whitecaps all the way onto shore. His panicked mother runs to him in tears. Her boy stands and looks at her, then heads back into the water with a devilish grin on his face.