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USC quarterback, Matt Barkley, has decided to don the Trojan red and yellow for one last season. On Thursday afternoon, the 21-year-old declared that he will not enroll in the 2012 NFL Draft, opting instead to return for his senior year in Los Angeles. Barkley broke the news in a nationally televised event held in the campus’ Heritage Hall with his family, girlfriend, head coach, the USC marching band, and many others in attendance.
When discussing the two options before him, he began by speaking optimistically of his future at the next level. “I am prepared to play quarterback in the NFL,” said Barkley. “It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL – and I intend to make that dream a reality.” While this initially sounded like a young man that had decided to move on, Barkley would take everyone by surprise and suddenly go in the exact opposite direction.
“But, I know in my heart, that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player,” said Barkley. “Our USC football team has been through some tough times, and we have persevered. This 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I plan to play a part in it. I have firmly decided to forgo the 2012 NFL draft and finish that.”
The conclusion of that statement quickly brought about wild cheers along with a celebratory tune played by the band. For the first time in two years, the USC football program had good news for their loyal family. Sanctions handed down by the NCAA in 2010 banned the school’s bowl eligibility for the past two years. Barkley’s return will now give him the opportunity to lead the school to its first bowl since defeating Boston College in the 2009 Emerald Bowl. With USC retaining most of its starters for next season, a national title run after this year’s 10-2 finish could be an inspiration as well.
Head coach, Lane Kiffin, was not shocked at all by Barkley’s announcement. Kiffin had paid Barkley a visit at his home the previous night, and his quarterback gave him a gold Christmas ornament. Displayed on the front of the ornament was a picture of the two embracing after this year’s victory over Colorado. After being told to turn it around, Kiffin found the words, “One More Year”, written on the back and immediately rejoiced.
Kiffin has tremendous respect for Barkley, knowing that most star athletes would not pass up the opportunity to begin making millions of guaranteed dollars and play professionally. “This is a special, special college student-athlete story,” said Kiffin. “To be a part of this story is unbelievable for all of us involved.”
Barkley had an outstanding junior year and was projected to be an early first round pick in the upcoming draft. In 2011, he threw for 3,528 yards along with 39 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III were regarded as the only two quarterbacks that could have possibly been selected before him.
However, Barkley is not expected to hurt his draft stock at all by remaining in school. In fact, experts believe that he will be even more prepared for the 2013 NFL Draft and will actually be selected with the number one overall pick. Being a potential frontrunner for next year’s Heisman Trophy does not sound too bad either.
Barkley did not listen to those who believed that this was the wrong route to take. His ultimate goal is to help contribute to the winning tradition established by the historic USC program. All eyes will now effectively be on him in 2012 to see if he is successful in doing so, like those who occupied this prestigious position before him – current NFL quarterbacks, Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, and Carson Palmer.