Education of Jets rookie Sam Darnold starts with hair gel

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Josh McCown has known Sam Darnold for only a few weeks, but he already can tell the rookie quarterback has an inquisitive nature. He asks a lot of questions, everything from huddle etiquette to study habits.

Turns out Darnold has a thirst for knowledge on a lot of subjects.

"Honestly, the best question he asked was what kind of hair gel I use," a smiling McCown said after Tuesday's first OTA practice. "That was the best question. That's where it starts."

It makes sense, right? The follically blessed Darnold wants to be well-groomed while he's being groomed for the New York Jets' quarterback gig.

Darnold is only two OTA practices into his NFL career, far too early to draw any conclusions on the field, but he has impressed his elders with his studious approach in the classroom. That's an important part of the job. Not only are fans and media studying his every move, but so are his new teammates. They're trying to get a read on their future leader.

The former USC star is so diligent that he actually asked McCown how much to say in the huddle.

"He gets what this position is about," McCown said. "When you step in the huddle, you want to be able to command it. To me, when you ask those questions, it's because he has a desire to step in there and own it. That's on the right track."

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who played for the Seattle Seahawks when a precocious Russell Wilson broke into the lineup as a rookie, said he's already had a few conversations with Darnold in an attempt to get to know him as a player and person.

"He's very open to learning," Kearse said. "He listens, he asks questions -- all the things you want, especially in a rookie who has such high expectations from outside sources. He's doing all the right things so far."

Naturally, Darnold will make mistakes. Being a rookie quarterback is one of the toughest things in sports, especially in an impatient market such as New York.

His first practice with the full team was covered like a regular-season game, with reporters charting his stats. (Full disclosure: I was one of them.) He took 21 of the 43 reps in the team period, more than McCown and Teddy Bridgewater -- perhaps a sign of how the coaches will divide the workload. Darnold was jittery, botching a snap, throwing a few passes into no-man's land and getting picked off a couple of times in 7-on-7 drills.

Hey, it happens. What matters most is that he improves on a daily basis. Darnold wasn't made available by the team to talk about his debut.

"With any rookie, especially a high pick, you want to see the talent level," McCown said. "You want to see the skill set. That's something you watch. He's athletic. The ball comes out of his hand really nice. He's got a good, strong arm. Those are things on the surface level that get you excited."

Bridgewater said of Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick, "I’m no talent-evaluator; I’m just a quarterback. I’d say that this guy comes to work every day. He has his hard hat on, he’s focused, he’s sitting in those meeting rooms and he’s taking notes. He seems like a guy who’s ready to do some great things in this league.”

One thing is certain: Darnold won't be hair today, gone tomorrow.