One already is in a hall of fame.
Another is in mom’s possession.
The 2021 draft class of first-round skill players has come out firing. Each of the five quarterbacks and the first three wide receivers selected were responsible for touchdowns in Week 1. The first running back taken, Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers, joined the TD fray in Week 2.
But what became of the first touchdown football of each?
They didn’t all think to keep track of it, but that’s what equipment managers are for. We asked our NFL reporters to find out what they could about who kept the ball and what they did with it in the face of limited player availability this season.
The first touchdown pass of New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones already resides in the team’s hall of fame, which is located on the grounds of Gillette Stadium. It opened in September 2008 and is home to exhibits that capture the essence of the history of the team. So it was a natural fit for Jones’ ball to end up there, not far from the end zone in which receiver Nelson Agholor scored the touchdown late in the second quarter.
Miami Dolphins rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle didn’t have to wait long for his first career reception; it came on his first snap against the Patriots. His first NFL touchdown soon followed, on Miami’s first drive of the third quarter. He caught a screen pass from Tua Tagovailoa and powered into the end zone for a 3-yard score in Miami’s 17-16 win.
Waddle didn’t keep the ball for long though; he found his mother, Iesha Redmon, in the stands and gave it to her.
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, a teammate of Waddle at Alabama, didn’t know where his ball went and didn’t sound too worried. “It’ll find me,” he said. Sure enough, by midweek he said the ball appeared in his locker.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter of a 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, kept the ball himself. Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said his touchdown ball, a 22-yard pass to Chris Manhertz in the second quarter of a 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans, found its way to his locker courtesy of the equipment team for the Jags.
“Might give it to family. I’m not really sure, yet,” said Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick. “I’ll probably hold on to it. It’s kind of special, so hold on to it.”
The situation was a little more unique for San Francisco, where 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick, threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Trent Sherfield for the game’s first score in what turned out to be a 41-33 victory against the Detroit Lions.
Sherfield was playing in his first game with San Francisco after three years with the Arizona Cardinals. The pass from Lance was his first regular season catch and his first touchdown as a Niner. Which is why Sherfield’s first instinct after the catch was to locate equipment manager Doc Dressler and have him store the ball for him.
But it didn’t take long for Sherfield to realize he was holding a football that had even greater value to someone else: Lance. Sherfield had just caught Lance’s first NFL pass and his first NFL touchdown pass.
“I thought about it and I was like, ‘You know what, I think I need to give that to Trey,'” Sherfield said.
A lively debate ensued, with each player insisting the other take the keepsake home. When Lance suggested that Sherfield keep it because he “got one from the preseason,” Sherfield put his foot down, letting Lance know “those don’t count.” Eventually, Lance demurred, and once the ball is painted up with the date and other pertinent information from the game, it will return to Lance. Lest anyone worry, though, Sherfield made sure to get something out of the deal.
“One thing I did keep was my jersey,” Sherfield said. “I made it a fair trade, I gave him the ball and I kept my jersey. That’s definitely for him and hopefully he can get it all painted all up and get it framed.”
Harris took an extra week to get his first touchdown. After posting 30 TDs in his senior year at Alabama, he didn’t treat his 25-yard catch-and-run score from Ben Roethlisberger much like any other touchdown.
“I left it on the field, but they ended up giving it to me,” Harris said. “It’s in my locker now. I didn’t think about it. I’m going to leave it there until I think about it. It’s going to be there for a minute, to be honest with you. Maybe I’ll leave it there. A locker-room trophy. Just leave it in there.”
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase leads all rookies with four touchdown receptions. His alma mater, LSU, put together quite a look at his first TD, which was thrown by a familiar source, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Chase’s college teammate.
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) September 12, 2021
What are these footballs worth? That falls under the heading of TBD. When a sixth-round pick of the Patriots threw a touchdown pass on Oct. 14, 2001, against the Chargers, no one knew he’d still be playing 20 years later and hold nearly every passing record known to man, as well as win seven Super Bowls.
The ball from Tom Brady’s first TD pass went up for auction at Lelands.com in May and fetched $428,841.60.
ESPN reporters Mike Reiss, Michael DiRocco, Jeff Dickerson, Brooke Pryor, Nick Wagoner and Tim McManus contributed to this story.
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