COSTA MESA, Calif. — Move over, Peyton Manning. There’s another quarterback-turned-actor on the scene — this one plays on Sundays — and might be the most unlikely of television stars.
“Whoa, not that one,” Herbert cautions a fishing buddy while sitting in an overstuffed recliner in the back of a pickup truck. “Swim jig in the grass, football jig in the rocks and ledges.” He is the co-founder of his high school fishing club, after all.
Before that, he gives a young girl makeup tips.
“You’re definitely going to want to blend that in,” he says to the girl.
He gives grilling tips to a weekend warrior: “That’s a lot of smoke; I’d turn that grill down before you burn it.”
And, of course, there’s the one where the barber is giving a young bushy-haired kid a “trim.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you can’t uncut it!” he says as the barber goes at the kid with the buzzing clippers. And he would know, having suffered a midseason “trim” himself, courtesy of his strength coach (it’s growing back).
The ads are all part of a campaign for an auto company in Herbert’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon, that was orchestrated by the company’s community outreach and marketing manager, Amy Newport. She also happens to be the mother of four boys (ages 24, 22, 18 and 12), the older two of whom grew up playing sports against Herbert.
“He crushed it,” Newport said of Herbert’s performance in front of the lights and cameras. “His personality came through. He was just Justin that I knew all those years. Fun.”
So is Herbert coming out of his shell as he begins Year 2 with the Chargers? Or did he always have it in him?
He will have to work hard to surpass what he did on the field as a rookie thrown into the spotlight when Tyrod Taylor accidentally had his lung punctured while receiving a pain-killing injection for his ribs before the Chargers’ Week 2 game with the Kansas City Chiefs. Herbert thrived, throwing for 4,336 yards and an NFL rookie record 31 touchdown passes. He also ran for five touchdowns.
Herbert left one of Manning’s rookie records intact, though. Manning’s rookie interception record of 28, set in 1998. Herbert threw 10 picks last season.
But he’s gaining on Peyton in the ad department.
There’s more: Laundry.
“Gotta check that lint screen, and don’t forget that dryer sheet!” Herbert yells at a man putting clothes into the dryer.
And making smoothies.
“I always add a little peanut butter for the extra flavor and great source of protein,” he yells to a girl, who rolls her eyes and acts extremely annoyed.
And then there’s parallel parking — Herbert uses a bullhorn to guide a man into the spot while sitting in that overstuffed recliner.
“One more time, keep going, keep going. Use those mirrors. Yep, it’s gonna be close. Yeah, bring it back again, bring it back again. See, it’s not that hard to parallel park. Anyone can do it!”
Herbert, 23, is hilarious in the armchair quarterback role, and the ads are perfect, especially if you know how shy and understated Herbert is when the TV cameras aren’t rolling.
Newport knew something of Herbert’s soft-spoken demeanor and worked with an agency to bring out his fun side with not too much acting. Sitting in a big easy chair seemed to suit him, especially when he got a nibble (or acted like he got a nibble) while wearing a powder-blue sweatsuit with a fishing reel in his hand.
Herbert is also hosting a golf tournament at Shadow Hills Country Club in Junction City, Oregon, on July 8, with proceeds going to Kidsports, a Eugene-based nonprofit that he and his two brothers were part of growing up. It provides opportunities for children to play sports in Eugene, something he cares about dearly.
He also stunned Chargers season-ticket holders by appearing with them on a recent Zoom call.
“I didn’t expect to see you,” said one overly excited fan. “You just blew me away.”
Maybe Herbert is an on-camera natural. Who knew?