USC Football: Matt Barkley’s Busy Summer Offers Plenty of Perspective


Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

USC quarterback Matt Barkley shocked many by announcing that he’s coming back for his season senior last December, and while he’s taking a page out of Matt Leinart’s book in returning, the senior has had a busy summer that’s seen him grasp perspective on both the game of football and the life that surrounds it.

Barkley graduated from USC back in early May, taking advantage of not only his early enrollment, but his acceleration in academics. How’d he decide to celebrate? By immediately flying to Haiti with a bevy of teammates on a team-bonding trip that saw the players rebuild four houses in the impoverished country.

When the players returned to Los Angeles in late May, they came back as changed men, partly due to the initiation of Barkley and his family for planning the trip. Trips overseas to aid the needy and do missionary work aren’t new to Barkley, but bringing in his teammates was.

That duality of perspective between the direct helping of others and the indirect cultivating of maturity and bonding that the team went through, is a huge belt earned for Barkley, who has been criticized in the past for not being your prototypical field general on the football field.

Last weekend, Barkley flew to Louisiana to partake in the Manning Passing Academy, where leadership on and off the field is stressed. The camp led by the Manning brothers featured many of the top quarterbacks from around the nation, including West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Arkansas’s Tyler Wilson and Washington’s Keith Price.

Following the event, Daniel Jeremiah of lauded Barkley, commenting on a perceived improvement in arm strength. Though Barkley refused to acknowledge any changes in regimen or a boost of any kind on Tuesday afternoon at Pac-12 Media Day, he was clear that making the trip to the camp was a key part of his summer.

“The camp itself was a great opportunity to get to meet some of those other college quarterbacks from around the country, and see them and get to meet them on a personal note,” said Barkley to a small group of reporters.

“To talk to Peyton and Eli was really great. We talked ball, but then they have those Cajun cookouts at night and you just get to sit around, tell stories and talk ball. It was really beneficial, and I’m glad I went,” Barkley said. “The whole Manning family has presence when they enter a room.”

For Barkley, seeking out the perspectives of those who have come before him is just part of life. While he stays in contact with former Trojans like Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer, current Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning provides a similar experience for Barkley to relate to, as both decided to come back for a chance to win an elusive national title in their senior seasons. As expected, Barkley used some of the time in Louisiana to pick Manning’s brain.

“He was saying he was excited to see me come back,” said Barkley of Peyton Manning. “He remembered when he did [at Tennessee] and how much of a wonderful season that was for him. Even though he didn’t go all the way, he was saying it was one of the funnest seasons he’s had of football.”

It’s a ringing endorsement for Matt Barkley, especially because of both the college success and the NFL success that Manning has achieved, something that other role models like Leinart can’t really attest to.

“It was encouraging to hear that, and to soak it up,” Barkley said. “You hear that from everyone that there’s nothing like college football. I believe it and live it. The guys in college are so unique compared to the NFL.”

And just like college players are unique from the pros, they’re also far from the high school level, a realm that kept Barkley busy this past weekend at Nike’s Elite 11 camp. Barkley was a mentor to the young quarterbacks, leading drills and serving as an example for the nation’s future signal callers.

At the camp, was USC Class of 2013 commit Max Browne, who Barkley says he has a good relationship with. While the current Trojan quarterback wasn’t publicly allowed to speak about the future quarterback, given the body language of Barkley and his quickness to classify his relationship with Browne as ‘good’, it’s a good sign for USC football that a transition is very much in effect. Plus, it shows how much of a role that Barkley is playing on and off the field in terms of recruiting.

“It’s kinda cool,” said Barkley when asked about recruits buying into USC and seeing it first hand at Elite 11. “We can influence them in a lot of ways, and hopefully we’re doing it in the right way. They can see what SC football is all about and they can see that we’re the cream of the crop.”

Browne’s class to which Barkley ultimately referred to is the No. 1 in the nation. And for a school with an impending No. 1 ranking on the field in addition to recruiting, pressure is mounting and a summer of perspective can’t be understated for Matt Barkley. From college graduate, to missionary, to teammate, to mentor, he’s done more this summer than most have done in a lifetime, while racking up frequent flyer miles in the process.