On a hot summer afternoon four days before college football’s first broiling weekend, I’m hanging out with this town’s marquee college football player, looking for a shady spot to sit and talk.
Matt Barkley knows just the place.
“There’s a bench over there,” he says, pointing to a tree-covered spot on the USC campus that I’ve passed dozens of times but never noticed. “That will work.”
Matt Barkley knows this place. He loves this place. He embraces the nooks, immerses himself in the crannies. He talks about soaking in the richness of the Doheny Library. He talks about occasionally ducking out of Heritage Hall to walk through the Cinematic Arts Complex because it just feels so cool.
“The biggest appeal for me is just being here, and being part of all this,” he says.
After surviving two of the most difficult seasons endured by any Trojans quarterback, Matt Barkley can finally, truly call USC home.
Just in time for him to leave it.
Watch him closely for the next couple of months, because you probably won’t be seeing him around here again. Barkley is understandably hoping to use a second consecutive season with no bowl or championship hopes to obtain something even greater — an NFL future.
Despite the daily pleadings from his coach and what will certainly be an autumn’s worth of love from his fans, Barkley is probably in his final year here, and can you blame him?
He’s already a senior academically. By the time the year is finished, he will have given the school three seasons with only one turmoil-filled Emerald Bowl in return.
He’s done his time. He’s made his mark. Yes, he would become a campus legend if he stays in school to lead them out of probation next season, but who goes to college to become a campus legend?
“I came to USC to prepare myself for a job,” he says. “That job just happens to be football.”
And, given his steady improvement, that job should be ready for him in next spring’s NFL draft, and if the round is right, the kid is gone.
“I’ll just say this — I want to put myself in a position to go out with a bang,” Barkley says. “I’m not trying to get out of here, but I want to play great enough to make sure that there is no question, no doubt, about what I have to do.”