Being featured on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated college football preview issue is a “dream come true” for USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
This week, USC’s Sam Darnold became the 138th Trojan to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a feat the quarterback called “crazy and surreal” after practice on Thursday.
“At first, when they told me I was going to be on the cover and all that stuff, I was like, okay no big deal,” he said. “And then you see it and it’s just a dream come true.”
The quarterback’s history with Sports Illustrated goes back years. He was an avid reader of Sports Illustrated Kids when he was younger and continued to read SI, arguably the most iconic sports magazine in existence, as he got older.
As a cover athlete, Darnold’s image will be added to the wall of SI covers commemorated at the Galen Center, continuing a line of seven regular USC starting quarterbacks to be featured at some point during their Trojan careers beginning with Carson Palmer in 2003.
This is Darnold’s first cover, and he’ll need several more to catch Matt Leinart, who holds the record for the most covers by a Trojan QB or Mark McGwire, whose 11 covers is a USC record.
This summer Darnold has been the featured subject of long-form pieces in Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the LA Times and the OC Register, so by now he’s used to the attention.
But with attention comes extra scrutiny. He says it’s not affecting him.
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“There’s always been that pressure since the season we had last year,” Darnold said, thankful that all of the media attention he’s received thus far has been for good things, not bad. “As long as everything stays positive, I don’t think there’s any added pressure really.”
As for the SI cover, Darnold doesn’t have a copy of it just yet.
“I know my parents have one,” he said. “They sent me a picture but [there’s] not too much time to go and pick one up. When I get the chance I will.”
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As for asking SI writer Lee Jenkins for a free copy, Darnold chuckled, “Can’t do that.”
That would be an NCAA violation.