John Matthew Stafford (born February 7, 1988) is an American football quarterback for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Georgia, and was drafted by the Lions first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.
Stafford is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw over 5,000 yards in a single season, including one of three in the 2011 NFL season (Drew Brees and Tom Brady), and was the fastest player in NFL history to reach 25,000 passing yards (90 games).
Stafford was born in Tampa, Florida, to John and Margaret Stafford. He lived in Dunwoody, Georgia, while his father attended graduate school at the University of Georgia. His family then moved to Dallas, Texas, and Stafford attended Highland Park High School with Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. He was coached by Randy Allen and was widely considered to be one of the best high school quarterbacks in the United States in the Class of 2006, ranked ahead of Tim Tebow.
In 2005, he led his team to a perfect 15–0 record and won the UIL 4A Division I State Championship. During the playoff run, Stafford beat Ryan Mallett’s Texarkana Texas 38–31, as well as Jevan Snead’s Stephenville 41–38. Stafford had over 4,000 yards passing without playing the first three games of the season due to a knee injury. Stafford received numerous accolades including being named to the Parade All-America Team and the USA Today Pre-Season Super 25 in 2005. He also won the MVP and Best Arm awards at the 2005 EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp and was named the 2005 EA Sports National Player of the Year. Regarded as a five-star recruit by Rivals.com, Stafford was listed as the No bogner jas. 1 pro-style quarterback prospect in the class of 2006 by Rivals.com.
Before he had even started a game at the collegiate level, analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. predicted, correctly, that Stafford would eventually be the first pick in the NFL Draft.
Stafford graduated early from high school and enrolled at the University of Georgia in January, where he became the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Georgia Bulldogs football team since Quincy Carter in 1998, and first out of high school to start since Eric Zeier in 1991. Stafford wore number 7 at Georgia. He completed five of 12 passes for 102 yards and one TD in a Georgia spring game.
Stafford debuted late in the season opener of the 2006 season against Western Kentucky and went 3 of 5 passing for 40 yards and a touchdown pass. During the season’s third game, against South Carolina, starting quarterback Joe Tereshinski III was injured, forcing Stafford to come off the bench. Although he completed just 8 of 19 passes for 171 yards and three interceptions, Georgia won the game, 18–0. Against University of Alabama Birmingham the following week, Stafford made his first collegiate start. Georgia won, 34–0. Victories over Colorado and Mississippi improved Georgia’s record to 5–0, but the heart of the conference schedule loomed.
The rest of the season was up and down for Stafford and the Bulldogs. Following home losses to both Tennessee and Vanderbilt, UGA head coach Mark Richt named Stafford the starter for the rest of the season ahead of Tereshinski. Stafford completed 20 of 32 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns in a 27–24 win over Mississippi State, and was named the SEC Freshmen of the Week for his efforts. Statistically, he had his best game of the season against the 5th-ranked Auburn Tigers. Stafford finished the game 14 of 20 for 219 yards and a touchdown, and added 83 rushing yards and a touchdown on 7 carries in Georgia’s 37–15 upset win. The following week, Stafford led the Bulldogs on a 12-play, 64-yard drive and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in Georgia’s 15–12 win over No. 16 Georgia Tech.
Stafford completed his freshman season by leading Georgia to a 31–24 come-from-behind victory over Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, after the Bulldogs trailed 21–3 at halftime. Stafford threw for 129 yards and a second half touchdown to spark the comeback.
He threw for 234 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the season opener
KELME Summer Men’s Short-Sleeved Pure Cotton Lapel POLO Cultivat T-shirts
. Against Alabama, the Bulldogs avoided an 0–2 start in SEC play by escaping Bryant-Denny Stadium with an overtime win. Stafford connected with senior wide receiver Mikey Henderson on the Bulldogs‘ first play from scrimmage in OT for the winning score. In UGA’s win vs. No. 9 Florida, he completed 11 of 18 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-long TD pass of 84 yards to Mohamed Massaquoi and a 53-yard TD pass to Henderson. The wins over Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech marked the first time that Georgia had defeated all three rivals in the same season since 1982 Bogner Jas sale.
Stafford had 175 yards passing and a TD pass during Georgia’s 41–10 rout of the No. 10 Hawaii Warriors in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. He completed 194 of 348 passes for 2,523 yards (194.1/game) and 19 TDs as well as two rushing TDs for the season.
Stafford was chosen to Athlon’s preseason Heisman Favorites Others To Watch list. Georgia was ranked #1 in both the preseason coaches poll and the AP poll, marking the first time Georgia has ever been #1 in the preseason version of either poll; the team also entered the 2008 season with the longest active winning streak among the 66 BCS conference teams, having won its last 7 games of the 2007 season. In the final regular season game against Georgia Tech, Stafford completed 24 out of 39 attempts for 407 yards and 5 touchdowns, setting a personal record for touchdowns in a single game, albeit a 45–42 loss. Stafford finished the season with 3,459 passing yards, the second most in school history, and 25 touchdowns, the single-season record for passing touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown in 2008. After defeating Michigan State 24–12 and winning the MVP of the 2009 Capital One Bowl, Stafford finished his three years at Georgia with a 3–0 record in bowl games and a 6–3 record in rivalry games (1–2 against Florida, 3–0 against Auburn, and 2–1 against Georgia Tech). Stafford chose to forgo his senior season and enter the 2009 NFL Draft.
The so-called „Stafford Effect“ relates to the phenomenon seen at Stafford’s high school alma mater, Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas, from 2006–2008, where the number of seniors who applied to University of Georgia rose dramatically in the three years following Stafford’s departure to Athens, Georgia. In 2005, the year before Stafford went to Georgia, 35 seniors applied to the university, compared with 69 in 2006, 75 in 2007, and 106 in 2008. The „Stafford Effect“ was chronicled in a feature story in Stafford’s hometown newspaper, Park Cities People. Stafford remarked in the story, „I’m not sure I have anything to do with it. I think people realize Georgia is a good school to watch football and have a good time, just like in Highland Park.“
Already after the 2008 NFL Draft, several NFL analysts predicted Stafford would be the #1 pick in the 2009 Draft if he chose to leave school early. He eventually did, and on April 24, 2009, agreed to record contract terms with the Detroit Lions to become the first overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft, one day before the draft was held. The six-year contract reportedly contained $41.7 million in guaranteed money (the most guaranteed to any player in NFL history until July 30, 2010, when Sam Bradford signed a deal with $50 million guaranteed) and carried a total value of up to $78 million.
On September 6, 2009, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz announced that Stafford would be the Lions‘ permanent starting quarterback heading into the 2009 season. Regarding his decision, Schwartz stated, „This isn’t an internship or an experiment.“ Stafford beat out veteran Daunte Culpepper for the starting job. Stafford made his first start in the NFL on September 13, 2009. He was one of four rookie starters for the Lions (Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and Sammie Hill) in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints, and was the first Lions rookie quarterback to start the season since Greg Landry in 1968. He completed 16 of 37 passes for 205 yards and 3 interceptions; he was intercepted twice by Darren Sharper, the other time by Scott Shanle. He also ran in a 1-yard touchdown.
In Week 2, he threw his first career touchdown pass when he connected with Calvin Johnson on a 6-yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
In Week 3, Stafford led the Lions to their first victory since the 2007 season. He completed 21 of 36 for 241 yards and one touchdown in Detroit’s 19–14 win over the Washington Redskins.
In Week 4, Stafford completed 24 of 36 for 296 yards with one touchdown as well as an interception before suffering a knee injury while being sacked in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 48–24 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. He underwent further evaluation back in Detroit. Culpepper started in his place in week 5, and again in week 6.
In Week 8, Stafford returned as the starter in the home game against the Rams. Here he threw and completed 14/33 passes for 168 yards, and an interception and was also sacked twice, but he ran for a touchdown which turned out to be the only one of the game for the Lions as well as handing the Rams their only victory of the season as they lost 17–10.
In Week 9, Stafford struggled at the Seahawks going 22/42 for 203 yards with 2 touchdowns but he also threw 5 costly interceptions which remains his career high in the 32–20 loss.
In Week 10, Stafford went 29/51 for 224 yards and a touchdown in the 27–10 loss at the Vikings.
On November 22, 2009, Stafford threw 5 touchdowns in a 38–37 win over the Cleveland Browns, becoming the youngest quarterback ever to do so, being more than a year younger than the former record holder, Dan Marino. In a thrilling ending, Stafford received high acclaim when he stepped back onto the field despite team doctors‘ urge to stay on the sideline after suffering a separated shoulder on the previous play and threw the final touchdown pass as time expired. In addition to the five touchdown passes, Stafford accumulated 422 yards passing, a record for a rookie at that time. For his performance, Stafford won NFC Offensive Player of the Week and Pepsi Rookie of the Week. Stafford was mic’d up for the game for NFL Films. The show’s creator Steve Sabol said it was the most dramatic performance he’s seen in the show’s 30-year history.
To begin Week 12 on Thanksgiving Day, Stafford went 20/43 for 213 yards with a touchdown pass but threw 4 interceptions in the 34–12 loss against the Packers.
In Week 13, Stafford went 11/26 for 143 yards with a touchdown but threw 2 interceptions in the 23–13 loss at the Bengals.
Stafford was placed on injured reserve on December 24 for the minor knee injury. Stafford concluded his rookie season having passed for 2,267 yards,13 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. In all 10 of the games he started for the Lions he either threw or ran for a touchdown despite the Lions finishing the season 2–8 in games that he starts.
Stafford injured his right shoulder in the season opener against the Chicago Bears on September 12. Stafford returned on October 31 against the Washington Redskins and threw 4 touchdowns to lead the Lions to a 37–25 win. On November 7, Stafford re-injured his right shoulder in the fourth quarter of the Lions 23–20 OT loss to the New York Jets. The Lions announced that Dr. James Andrews had performed surgery on Stafford’s throwing shoulder, which included an AC joint repair and a clavicle shaving. This ended his 2010 season, leaving the Lions at 1–2 in games he started and bringing his career total with the Lions to 3–10.
The Lions opened the season on September 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with high expectations. Stafford played well, throwing for 305 yards, 3 TDs, and an interception in a 27–20 win, the first season opener the Lions had won since 2007. Another strong performance followed, with Stafford throwing for 4 TDs, 294 yards, and an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, leading the Lions to a 48–3 blowout victory, the largest win margin in team history. Stafford won the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week for his performance. In Weeks 3 and 4, Stafford led the team to consecutive comeback victories, a 26–23 overtime comeback victory over the Minnesota Vikings after trailing 20–0 at halftime in Week 3, and a 34–30 win over the Dallas Cowboys after trailing 27–3 with 12:27 left in the 3rd quarter.
Week 5 saw Stafford orchestrate a 24–13 win over the Chicago Bears, going 19 of 26 for 219 yards and 2 touchdowns. This marked the first time the Lions had gone 5–0 since 1956, the year before they won their last NFL Championship. In Week 10 against the Bears, Stafford threw four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns on consecutive drives. The game was marred by a brawl that began when Stafford threw Bears cornerback D.J. Moore to the ground by his helmet during a block on an interception return. In response, Moore attacked Stafford and a sideline-clearing brawl ensued. Stafford was fined $7500 for his role in the brawl.
On November 20, Stafford threw for 335 yards and 5 TDs as the Lions defeated the Carolina Panthers in another comeback, 49–35, after trailing 24–7 in the second quarter. Stafford became the first QB since at least 1950 to win back to back games after trailing by at least 20 points, the first to win three games in a season after trailing by at least 17 points, and the first to win four games in a season after trailing by at least 13 points according to STATS, LLC. (Data before 1950 is incomplete.)
On January 1, 2012, Stafford became the fourth quarterback in NFL history and third in the 2011 season, along with Tom Brady and Drew Brees, to throw for 5,000 passing yards in a season after collecting 520 passing yards against the Green Bay Packers in a 45–41 loss in Week 17. The accomplishment made Stafford the second-youngest quarterback in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards, behind only Dan Marino. Over the last four games of the 2011 regular season, Stafford became the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 1,500 yards (1,511) and 14 touchdowns over a four-game span. Stafford and the Lions finished the regular season with a 10–6 record, good enough for the Lions to make their first playoff appearance since 1999.
During the Wild Card Round in the playoffs against the New Orleans Saints, Stafford threw for 380 yards with 3 touchdown passes and 1 rushing touchdown. But he also threw two late picks in the fourth quarter that sealed the loss for the Lions, as they were defeated, 45–28.
Stafford was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the NFC after the 2011 NFL season. He was later named the 2011 Pro Football Weekly Comeback Player of the Year, AP Comeback Player of the Year and NFL Alumni Quarterback of the Year.
While the 2011 season proved to be the best season of Stafford’s young career, 2012 was one full of setbacks. During the opening game against the St. Louis Rams, Stafford threw 3 interceptions and only 1 touchdown pass. The Lions found a way to win the game 27–23. Stafford and the Lions lost the next three games to the 49ers, Titans, and Vikings. In the ensuing weeks, the Lions managed to win three games, including impressive comeback wins against the Seahawks and Eagles, and a dominating performance against the Jaguars. These proved to be the final winning games of the 2012 season as they ended the season with an eight-game losing streak.
Stafford finished the season with 20 touchdown passes, a huge drop compared to the 41 he threw in 2011; 17 interceptions, one more than 2011, and second most in his career since his rookie season; 4,967 passing yards on 727 attempts (an NFL record; the previous record was 691 by Drew Bledsoe); and a QB rating of 79.8, the lowest since his rookie season. He also rushed for a career high 126 yards and 4 touchdowns.
On July 7, 2013, Stafford agreed to a 3-year, $53 million extension with the Lions. He will be guaranteed $41.5 million through 2017.
Stafford completed 23-of-35 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and one pick on September 29 in a 40–32 win against the Bears. That gave him 14,069 yards through 49 games, surpassing Kurt Warner (13,864) for the best 50-game start to a career.
„I might (reflect on that) when I’m done playing someday,“ Stafford said. „I had no idea about that, or that it was coming. It’s something that I’ll probably look back on when I’m done and realize it was something pretty special.“
Stafford also holds the 50-game record for completions at 1,214, over Marc Bulger’s 1,115. He’s second in career 300-yard passing performances through 50 games at 19, trailing Warner’s 29.
Stafford led the Lions to a 5–3 record entering their mid-season bye. Stafford defeated the Cowboys 31–30 in the final game before the bye, throwing for 488 yards and a touchdown despite two interceptions; down 30–24 with just 62 seconds to work with and no timeouts Stafford completed a 23-yard pass to Calvin Johnson to the Cowboys 1-yard line; he hustled the team to the line as though to spike the ball, but instead jumped over the line for the winning touchdown with 14 seconds to go, to go to 5–3.
However, the Detroit Lions would finish 2–6 the rest of the way to finish with a record of 7–9. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, was later fired following the season. Matthew Stafford finished the 2013 season with 4,650 passing yards, with 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
On January 14, 2014, the Detroit Lions announced Jim Caldwell as their new head coach. The Detroit Lions rebounded from a disappointing 2013 campaign by finishing with an 11–5 record, thus earning the NFC’s 6th seed, their first playoff appearance since 2011. Stafford finished the 2014 season with 4,257 passing yards, with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and a QB rating of 85.7.
On January 4, 2015, Stafford and the Lions went against the Dallas Cowboys, in a Wild Card Playoff Game. After the Lions had a 20–7 lead in the third quarter, the Cowboys scored 17 unanswered points to win 24–20. Stafford threw 323 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception during the game.
On January 19, 2015, it was announced that Stafford was selected to the 2015 Pro Bowl, his first Pro Bowl appearance. He would be replacing Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, due to a quad injury. For the game he was named Pro Bowl Offensive MVP, with 316 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception.
On December 13, 2015, Stafford reached 25,000 passing yards in his 90th career game, becoming the fastest quarterback to reach this milestone, surpassing the previous record held by Dan Marino of 92 games. On December 21, Stafford posted a single-game career high in passer rating, and broke Jon Kitna’s single-game franchise record with an 88.0 completion percentage. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-27 win over the New Orleans Saints. Stafford became the first quarterback to complete 60 percent or more of his passes in all 16 games.
Updated through 2015 season
Stafford and longtime girlfriend, Kelly Hall, married on April 4, 2015. They met at the University of Georgia, where she was a cheerleader.
Stafford and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw were good friends growing up.
Stafford has a weekly segment on Mondays on The Mitch Albom Show with Mitch Albom on Detroit radio station WJR.