Everyone is always in search of the next fan favorite or legendary player. In New England’s case, the next Julian Edelman might be tough to find.
But maybe it's not.
Look no further than Drake Stoops. While nothing is guaranteed (and this is in no way a “draft Stoops in the first round” pitch), the Oklahoma legacy has proven he has the “it” factor that Edelman showed time and time again.
Despite growing up around the team as the son of legendary Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops, Drake enrolled at Oklahoma as a preferred walk-on without a scholarship. He eventually earned that scholarship, and while he didn't always put up the gaudiest stats, he seemed to shine brightest in the big moments.
From his game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth overtime to beat Texas in 2020 to his 28-yard catch-and-run on the final drive to set up OU's win over the Longhorns in 2023, Stoops was always Mr. Reliable.
His and Edelman's paths in college couldn't have been more different, as Edelman only caught one pass at Kent State.
While playing quarterback for the Golden Flashes, he finished his collegiate career with 4,997 yards and 30 passing touchdowns, with 2,483 rushing yards and 22 TDs. Stoops, on the other hand, totaled 1,876 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns - including career highs of 962 yards and 10 TDs on 84 receptions in 2023 en route to becoming a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy awarded to the most outstanding FBS college football player who began his career as a walk-on.
Stats aside, what made Edelman special were the intangibles and hard work/dedication to his craft. Stoops made headlines following Oklahoma's 2023 loss to Oklahoma State with an interview that gave an insight into what kind of a "program guy" he is:
Will the Patriots end up with their next 5'10", 190-pound slot receiver, this time by way of Norman, Oklahoma?
That remains to be seen, but at this week's East-West Shrine Bowl practices, Stoops has started to make waves showcasing (dare I say) the Edelman-esque route running that made him successful at OU.
The path to the draft is only beginning, with the 99th East-West Shrine Bowl taking place Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, televised live on NFL Network.
Time will tell if the "JUUUUUULES" chants become "STOOOOOOPS" chants inside Gillette Stadium.