Jimmy Garappolo recently signed one of the richest contracts in NFL history. The quarterback inked a five-year deal with San Francisco reportedly paying him $137.5 million.

He was traded to San Francisco by New England in the middle of the 2017 season. Once the 49ers inserted him in their starting lineup, he proceeded to go 5-0 to end the season.

Garappolo played quarterback at Eastern Illinois. That’s the same FCS school that produced Tony Romo. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton also played quarterback for the Panthers in the mid 1980s.

As a senior, Garappolo threw formmore than 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns leading his team to a 12-2 record. He won the 2013 Walter Payton Award, noting him as the outstanding offensive player in the FCS division.

In 2014, Garappolo was drafted in the second round the by the Patriots as the heir apparent to Tom Brady. He played sparingly as a rookie, but got a Super Bowl ring as a backup.

In 2016, with Brady suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season over the Deflategate brouhaha, Garappolo became the starter. The Patriots won their first two games with him under center, but he got hurt and the third-team quarterback came in before Brady returned and led New England to another Super Bowl win that season.

The trade of Garappolo in October of 2017 caused a bit of consternation in New England. Brady is still at the top of his game, even winning league MVP this past season, but he’ll be 41 years old when he takes his next NFL snap. Garappolo is only 26, and the Patriots may end up regretting letting him go.

But several years before he became a rich man in San Francisco, Garappolo spent a day in Conway, when his Eastern Illinois Panthers came to town to play the Central Arkansas Bears.

It was the 2012 regular season finale for both teams. An unusual late season, nonconference match between two nationally ranked conference champions. The Panthers came in at 7-3, ranked No. 24, and winners of the Ohio Valley Conference.

In coach Clint Conque’s penultimate season, the Bears were 8-2, ranked  No.10, and co-champs of the Southland Conference. Both teams would make the FCS playoffs.

A junior, Garappolo gave the Panthers an early 7-0 lead with a touchdown pass. The Bears responded and after a back and forth first half, UCA led 24-23 at the break.

UCA took control of the game in the third quarter, and won 48-30. The only second half score for EIU was a 74-yard TD pass from Garappolo.

He finished 19-33 for 228 yards with four TDs and one interception. For comparison, UCA quarterback Wynrick Smothers went 35-49 with 335 yards with four TDs with no interceptions.