But just one preseason game and a handful of joint practices into his pro career, the Jets rookie quarterback has moved on to impressing All-Pro opponents.
"Someone asked me about him the other day and I was like, yeah, whatever, he's just a guy," Norman gushed to a gaggle of reporters, per ESPN. "Then you go out here and see him making these throws and you're like, all right. That's not so much a college-level throw. He's putting them on the money."
Norman continued: "It's like, dang. You get rookies in here and you try to mess them with a little bit and bait them a little bit into thinking they're throwing a route and you can make a play and he's not having it. It's so crazy to see that at an early age. Dak [Prescott] has that; Carson [Wentz] has that. So it's like, man, they must come in here not wanting to screw it up and he's so far impressed me and I didn't want him to. I wanted to break all rookies. He's been doing a great job."
Darnold was third on New York's depth chart leading up to the Jets' preseason opener against the Falcons when the quarterback made a case to be Gang Green's starter. Against mostly second- or third-stringers, the rookie completed 13 of 18 passes for 96 yards and one touchdown, showcasing uncanny pocket awareness, mobility and accuracy on the move.
Norman described one play in particular when the corner attempted to bait Darnold into a rookie mistake, but the QB wasn't having it.
"I gave him some cheese," Norman described. "He held it and he was going to throw it and he pulled it back and I jumped back real fast and I was like, you little devil. OK, I see you working really good right now. I couldn't bait him like I wanted to and he saw it and he read it out and he read it out like a vet. You tip your hat to a guy like that, learning at an early age when guys are messing with him and when they're not. It's pretty awesome."
Jets brass hopes that Darnold can pull a similar stunt on Thursday evening when, likely playing with the ones, he can make a legitimate case to start the season as New York's QB1, freeing the Jets to ship Teddy Bridgewater for draft capital and/or a pass rusher and to begin the Sam Darnold Era of Good Feelings in earnest.