COSTA MESA, Calif. — There was a lot of excitement at Jack Hammett Sports Complex on Wednesday morning as the Los Angeles Chargers started their first day of training camp.
It was also the day after quarterback Justin Herbert signed his five-year $262.5 million extension. He walked onto the field for practice, fans cheering and yelling out well wishes to the fourth-year quarterback.
“Words aren’t enough to express how thankful and how glad I am to be part of this organization,” Herbert said. “I had complete faith in them from the get-go. I’ve never wanted to be anywhere else.
After practice, Herbert broke the team down, and that is when he was splashed with Gatorade as a congratulations from the team.
He ran over toward the fans, and that is when the madness began.
“Herbert, congrats on being a $260 million dollar man,” one man shouted.
“Herbie, can you sign my baby?” A fan asked as he held up his baby.
Herbert stood from the beginning of the fence and followed it until the end, about 120-150 yards. He was singing like a madman.
Fans kept shouting their congratulations to the 25-year-old quarterback.
One young fan asked him, “Can I have your cleats?” Herbert took one cleat off while another young fan asked, “Can I have the other?”
The fans wanted his autograph so bad they almost knocked down the fence dividing Herbert and the fans who cheered him on.
“To walk through the fan section over there and see that many people excited about football and excited about this season, we have a lot of high hopes,” Herbert said. “I feel like we’re going to bring a lot of energy.”
Herbert has been a big part of the organization since he was drafted sixth overall in 2020. He was supposed to sit behind Tyrod Taylor and learn. He took the reins over in week two of that season and hasn’t looked back.
“We’re very, very fortunate,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said. “To have a young player leading your team that is made up of all the right stuff, most importantly, and then who can play the game like few who have ever played the position can, it’s just really exciting for us.”
For months the question was when will the Chargers get the deal done with their superstar quarterback. Would it be during camp, like with Derwin James? A week before camp started, like Keenan Allen? Or less than 24 hours before camp, like Joey Bosa?
The contract extension is done, so it is time to move on.
“Now our focus is on football,” Herbert said. “It’s to be the best football team that we can be; it’s not going to be a distraction for us.”
His teammates have posted their congrats on social media and even helped him celebrate.
“I was just in the team room with all of my teammates, hanging out with them,” Herbert said. “They were super supportive and thankful. It was really cool to be part of it with them, and kind of celebrate with them.”
Allen told Chargers social media that he was proud of Herbert and asked, “Where are we going to dinner?”
Herbert being the good teammate that he is, knows he has to keep his teammates happy.
“I think I owe them a lot of dinners,” Herbert said. “I’m just so loyal to them and so thankful for their support along the way. I think it might be my turn to make up for some of that.”
So, what now?
“I just get to play football now, and I think that’s the best part about it is I get to play free,” Herbert said. “I get to play fearless, and we go out there, and we get to play our type of ball.”
That is the way Herbert was playing on Wednesday. He was slinging the ball around during practice. There were no pads, but he made a big 50-yard touchdown throw to receiver John Hightower.
He also had chemistry with first-round draft pick Quentin Johnston, finding him several times. It was like riding a bike when he targeted Allen or Mike Williams. All three of them have great chemistry.
“I’m just excited to air the ball up and throw them the ball,” Herbert said.
The fans see him as a leader. The players follow his lead. This team will go as number ten goes, plain and simple. He is the unquestionable face of the franchise.
“That’s kind of the role of the quarterback, is to have that big responsibility,” he said. “I look forward to that challenge. I’ve grown each year. I’ve gotten better at that.”
The Chargers organization has been fortunate but also had great scouting to go from Dan Fouts to Philip Rivers to now Herbert.
“Those two were class acts and about as good as it gets on and off the field,” Herbert said. “I’ll do my best to uphold that legacy and make sure that I’m honoring the Chargers legacy.”
The Chargers won’t have to worry about the quarterback position for the next several years because they have shown faith in their franchise quarterback.
He will continue to put in the work and try to get them to the promised land.
“There is still room for improvement, but I’m going to be the best quarterback, teammate, whatever the team needs me to be,” Herbert said. “I’m up to the challenge and willing to do it.”