USC Football: Was Ricky Town the First to Preview the Greatness of Sam Darnold?

Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during spring practice at Howard Jones Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Even before he took over as USC football’s starting quarterback, the signs that Sam Darnold could be great were there to see.

Once upon a time, a five-star prep quarterback named Ricky Town signed a letter of intent with USC and began his college career as an early enrollee for the men of Troy in 2015.

For Town, the Trojans were a childhood favorite and many expected the young gunslinger to craft a legacy worthy of the likes of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Matt Barkley, the great Trojan quarterbacks who went before him.

But by August of 2015, Town was no longer a Trojan and many of those same people who targeted him for cardinal and gold greatness were left wondering what happened.

Now we might know what drove young Town off and his name is Sam Darnold.

Darnold burst on to the scene in the fourth game of 2016 and after losing his first game at Utah, reeled off nine straight wins, doing it with a style that has NFL front offices drooling at the thought of Darnold leading their franchises.

Possessing a cannon for an arm, quick feet and unusual football acumen for such a young player, Darnold has shocked many with his potential, but it just may be that not everyone was surprised by “Slinging Sam’s” tremendous ability.

And one of the first hints at Darnold’s talents could very well be Ricky Town’s hasty departure from USC during fall camp two years ago.

That Town may have left the Trojans due to the presence of Darnold is not necessarily a revelation.

In an August 2015, piece for ESPN, publisher Garry Paskweitz noted that, “ever since USC coach Steve Sarkisian made the choice to bring in Sam Darnold in the same class as Town, there was speculation one of them could leave.”

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However, there was more to Darnold simply being there that may have pushed Town to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Despite being a fall enrollee, Darnold had displayed his tremendous abilities and Town—who had the benefit of the spring camp to elevate his status—simply could not keep up.

Per’s “The Audible” podcast, Ryan Abraham now with said “it was noted that Sam Darnold had passed him (Town) up.”

As for Darnold himself, young Sam never doubted his abilities or whether or not he could compete with the more heralded Town.

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Darnold had roomed with Town at the “Elite 11” quarterback competition where “Darnold flourished at the beginning of the camp, while Town struggled. But by the end of the week, Town finished in the Elite 11 while Darnold was not selected,” according to Sam Fortier, writing for

Still, Darnold was not discouraged and Fortier noted in the same piece that Darnold’s father Mike said, “He (Sam) had it in his head, Ricky Town? Five-star? I can do what he’s doing.”

And so he did when he arrived for USC’s fall camp in 2015, where he impressed both coaches and his fellow players with his athleticism.

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Perhaps he also impressed USC’s five-star quarterback gem of that recruiting class, Ricky Town, who transferred shortly after Darnold’s arrival.

Whether or not Darnold’s football abilities pushed Town—now at Ventura college after a redshirt season at Arkansas—out of the door at USC is speculation of course and Town is not talking.

However, it could have factored into Town’s decision and savvy followers of the men of Troy might have connected the dots as a preview of what was to come from Sam Darnold.

Either way, USC’s “quarterback of the future” was found in that recruiting class—even if his name wasn’t Ricky Town.