Stafford started all 13 games as a sophomore, throwing for 2,523 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead Georgia to a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Stafford threw for 175 yards and a touchdown in the 2008 Sugar Bowl against previously unbeaten Hawaii, the Bulldogs' first win in a BCS Game since the 2003 Sugar Bowl.
Heading into his junior season, Stafford was on most watch lists for the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback. He ended up earning semifinalist honors, throwing for a career-high 3,459 yards and 25 touchdowns. His standout individual performance came in the Bulldogs' regular season finale, in which he threw for a career-high 407 yards and a school-record-tying five TD in a loss to Georgia Tech. Stafford finished his Georgia career with 7,731 passing yards, which ranks third on the school's all-time list behind David Greene and Eric Zeier.
Stafford's contract -- the largest ever for an NFL draft pick -- is for six years and virtually guarantees him $41.7 million. The contract could pay him up to $78 million. ESPN's John Clayton reported that to get to the $78 million maximum, Stafford would have to make the Pro Bowl each year. He has a chance to make $72 million if he doesn't reach the Pro Bowl each season. To receive the full $41.7 million in guarantees, Stafford would need to play 35 percent of the team's downs as a rookie or 45 percent in later years.
On Sept. 7, 2009, following the 2009 preseason, Stafford was named the Lions starting quarterback, beating out Daunte Culpepper for the job. Stafford threw for 205 yards and three interceptions in a Week 1 loss to the Saints, Detroit's 18th consecutive loss. Stafford did run for a touchdown in the game. After another loss in Week 2, Stafford led the Lions to a win over the Redskins, snapping the team's 19-game losing streak. The next week, Stafford suffered a subluxation of his right knee in a loss to the Chicago Bears. He sat out the next two games, both Lions losses.
Stafford returned to the Lions lineup, but the team continued to struggle. In Week 11 against the Browns, Stafford set career highs with 422 yards and five touchdowns, leading Detroit to its second win of the season. Despite a separated non-throwing shoulder, Stafford was able to complete the Lions comeback with a touchdown pass on the final play of the game. He started the next two games, but sat out in Week 14 against the Ravens. He was put on injured reserve before Week 16, ending his rookie season.