Who is John Wolford? Former AAF quarterback thrust into high-stakes start for Rams

Exit Jared Goff. Enter … *checks notes* … John Wolford?

The Rams have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot on Sunday afternoon, but they’ll have to do it without Goff under center; Goff underwent thumb surgery to repair a mangled, dislocated thumb, an injury he sustained in the Rams’ Week 16 matchup vs. the Seahawks.

Now, the Rams’ playoff hopes rest on the shoulder pads of quarterback John Wolford, who is appearing in the first NFL game of his career.

Wolford, a product of the Wake Forest Deamon Deacons, signed with the Rams in 2019, and made the steady climb to the active roster to 2020. While he’s only been in the league since 2018, this is his first NFL action, and it’s the first time since Kyle Orton in 2013 that a quarterback will debut for his new team in Week 17 with a playoff berth on the line.

Here’s what you need to know about the Rams’ last hope (kind of) for the 2020 NFL playoffs:

Who is John Wolford?

Wolford, the 25-year-old Texan, attended Wake Forest between 2014 and 2017. As a Demon Deacon, Wolford set many school records as a senior in 2017, including touchdown passes (29) and yards (3,192). He left Wake Forest as one of the school’s most prolific passers.

Signing with the Jets as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2018 season, Wolford wouldn’t make the team out of camp, eventually heading to the AAF as the QB of the Arizona Hotshots in 2019.

In his only season with the Hotshots — the only season the league and team were in existence — Wolford tossed 1,617 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions in eight games in the league. Wolford’s 14 TD passes paced the league, garnering attention from the Rams.

Wolford was signed and remained a member of the Rams’ scout team in 2019 and was released from the practice squad, until the Rams re-signed him late in the season, inking him to a reserve/future contract for the 2020 season.

Wolford’s work ethic has earned the attention of some Rams stars already.

“I’ve been a fan of his. Just his preparation, just watching him work and the routines he goes through every single day, you would think he’s the starting quarterback already, honestly,” Los Angeles lineman Aaron Donald told SI. “I’ve seen during the bye week when I’m walking to my car about the leave, he’s walking out to the field with a helmet and shoulder pads, holding a football and spinning it in his hands saying, ‘All right AD, see you later.’

“He’s getting his opportunity to step up and play a huge role to help us win this game. And I’m confident.”

Rams coach Sean McVay has also praised Wolford’s preparation and shares the same confidence in Wolford.

“I’m confident in John, and I’m also confident in the other 10 players around him and understanding what guys need to do to step up,” McVay said, via the Cardinals’ website. “We’ve got to go do it. We’ve got to go do it collectively, but, man, what a great opportunity to respond. Let’s go lay the chips out there and see what the heck happens.”

Los Angeles clinches a playoff spot with a win over the Cardinals on Sunday, or a Bears loss.

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