Yesterday Trojan junior quarterback Matt Barkley chose to play another year for the Trojans rather than grabbing a $20+ million payoff for entering the NFL draft, where he was a sure bet to be a top ten, or even a top five pick.
“It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL, and I intend to make that dream a reality. But I know in my heart that I have not finished my journey as a Trojan football player. The 2012 USC football team has some serious unfinished business to attend to, and I intend on being a part of that.”
Trojan coach Lane Kiffin was overjoyed at Barkley’s decision. And why not? It could well lead to a national championship for the loaded Trojans, and coach-of-the-year honors for Kiffin. But lest you think that Kiffin has only a selfish interest, look at what he said last week when Barkley’s blind-side protector, All American tackle Matt Kalil, announced his decision to forego his senior year for the NFL:
“We fully support his decision and we told him so. He is ready for the NFL. He will be a very high draft pick and will have a long, successful career. We will miss him next year, but will cheer him on as a rookie in the NFL. We know he will represent USC very well.”
The Trojans made an inspired choice when they hired Kiffin. His 2011 team went 10-2, and was ranked #5 in the nation by AP. His teams have largely avoided the taunting, personal fouls, and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that marred the otherwise successful years under Pete Carroll.
Kiffin’s rule: no strutting or taunting. It’s refreshing to see—over and over—Trojan players who are on an emotional high for just having scored a touchdown, calmly handing the ball to the nearest official. Star receiver Robert Woods explained, “Coach says to do it that way.”
Kiffin’s care for his players shows in Barkley’s remarkable decision to defer fabulous wealth to play for him, and equally in Kiffin’s earlier reaction to Kalil’s decision to turn pro. Kiffin’s support for Kalil was in stark contrast to Pete Carroll’s ungracious comments when his star quarterback, Mark Sanchez, announced for an early jump to the NFL.
“The facts are so strong against this decision. After analyzing all the information, the truth is there — he should’ve stayed for another year… One more year of running a team is almost priceless, so he lost the chance to fully prepare himself and become the very best he could be before going to the NFL. That’s why there’s a 62 percent failure rate for underclassmen quarterbacks.”
Kiffin’s leadership is an example of why it’s a pleasure to transfer allegiance from pro football to college ball. There are many other coaches who teach ethics and sportsmanship, foremost among them my favorites, Chip Kelly at Oregon, Brian Kelly at Notre Dame, and Les Miles at LSU.
Tags: blind-side, Brian Kelly, Chip Kelly, coach-of-the-year, ethics, Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, national championship, NFL draft, personal fouls, Pete Carroll, Robert Woods, sportsmanship, taunting, unsportsmanlike conduct, USC Trojans