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Rams QB John Wolford 'confident' ahead of NFL debut vs. Cardinals

If you click on John Wolford's stats page, it reads "NO RESULTS AVAILABLE" in big, bold letters. It's not a filter problem or a loading issue. The 25-year-old quarterback has taken zero NFL regular-season snaps in his career.

Until Sunday.

Wolford doesn't have time to crawl or use a walking assist. No, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback must run from his first snap, as he makes his NFL debut in a win-and-in Week 17 bout against the Arizona Cardinals.

After planning a finance career, the Wake Forest product put aside a banking gig to take a shot as an NFL QB. Undrafted in 2018, Wolford got a call from the New York Jets, where he spent the preseason. Then he made a mark in the AAF with the Arizona Hotshots, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,617 yards (second-most in the league), 7.8 yards per attempt with an AAF-high 14 touchdowns with seven interceptions and a 95.9 QB rating.

Following his stint in the defunct league, Wolford landed as Jared Goff's backup in 2019. With Sean McVay as coach, there isn't a much better landing spot for a young QB to work every day. After Goff underwent surgery on his thumb this week, Wolford's first career snaps will come in a high-pressure situation.

"It's been a fun journey getting to this point," Wolford said Wednesday, via The Associated Press. "It's a lot of hard work, and I'm confident in the time I've spent that has gotten me here. I'm confident in my capabilities as a player. I know I can spin it. I know how to make the throws, and then mentally it's about making the right decisions."

If you're looking for trivia heading into Sunday's matchup, there is this excellent nugget on Wolford: Entering Week 17, he has 22 fewer NFL pass attempts (0) in his career than Rams punter Johnny Hekker (13-of-22, 184 pass yards, 1 TD, 1 INT in career).

The high stakes don't fret the former Demon Deacon.

"I'm just going to put my head down and work to the best of my ability," Wolford said. "Whatever happens, I'll be able to sleep at night. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

Wolford will become the 25th QB to make his first career start in Week 17 (since the NFL moved to a 16-game season in 1978). The previous 24 have a 5-19 W-L record, but each of the last two has won (Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes in 2017 at DEN and Carolina's Kyle Allen in 2018 at NO).

It's a new challenge for McVay. Goff has started all but one game of the coach's tenure in L.A., a Week 17 game in 2017 when the starter rested. Sean Mannion got the start that day with the Rams already having clinched the NFC West.

Sunday's sub situation will be much different.

McVay is confident the 6-foot-1 Wolford has the talent and mental makeup to be more than a silent understudy.

"He's as disciplined a guy as I've been around in terms of having that rhythm, that process, that routine," McVay said. "I'm confident in John, but I'm also confident in the other 10 players around him. We've got to do it collectively, but man, what a great opportunity."

On Thursday, the Rams tweeted a video with highlights from L.A.'s August scrimmage at SoFi Stadium featuring a number of plays from Wolford that had McVay praising the QB.

It's not just offensive coaches that seem impressed with Wolford in practice. Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, a former college quarterback himself, praised what Wolford has displayed in his two years in L.A.

"I think that it's very difficult in the NFL to earn the respect of your teammates when you've never gone in a game," Staley said. "But John Wolford has the full respect of our entire team because of how he performs on the practice field, in the meetings, in the weight room. That's a rare thing. We're all excited for his opportunity this weekend."

A Rams win, and Wolford will help his team clinch a postseason berth. L.A. could also make the playoffs with a defeat and a Chicago loss to Green Bay.

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