"It is my dream to play quarterback in the NFL. And I intend to make that dream a reality. But I know that I have not yet finished my journey as a Trojan football player," Barkley said in a press conference inside the revered Heritage Hall.
Every moment of Barkley's 22-minute press conference was a spectacle. With a Christmas tree as his backdrop, USC's signalcaller took to the podium to thank his family and the university for supporting him.
Throughout the 2011 season, fans begged the 6-2, 220-pound player from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei to play in cardinal and gold for one more year. Barkley, who has been the face of a USC program marred by postseason sanctions and coaching change, said he wanted to give the Trojans a chance at being the program they once were.
"The 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to and I plan to play a part in it," he said.
The decision was too lucrative for offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who declared for the NFL draft last week and protected Barkley's blind side in 2011. But Kalil said he understood where Barkley was coming from, especially with the upside.
Barkley's decision comes a day after another number seven in safety T.J. McDonald announced he also plans to stay for his senior season.
"This last season he was the leader of our defense, he's obviously a great player, All-American caliber," Kalil said of McDonald. "Obviously it helps, with him coming back, he'll be able to raise his stock in the draft next year and be another standout leader on the defense again."
But draft stock was more of a concern for McDonald than it was for Barkley. Barkley was expected to be a first-round pick in the draft, one of the top-three quarterbacks in the country by many scouts.
Kalil stressed the unknown as the reason for his decision and said it applies to McDonald, Barkley and defensive end Nick Perry, the Trojans top-four draft eligible juniors.
"You never know. There's never a guarantee," he said. "There's not a guarantee he'll win a Heisman or a national championship so it's risky."
"But I think [Barkley] knows what's best for him."
"I probably don't even know how crazy it's going to be. But I don't think that compares to how special the season could be for us," Barkley said.
As Trojanland celebrates their star returning for one more shining moment, Barkley's teammates also expressed their excitement at having him return.
"Matt coming back it's an easy national championship [next season]," cornerback Anthony Brown said. "Because last year we weren't able to go to a bowl game and we went 10-2.
"This year, we're able to go to a bowl game and just the drive and motivation and fight of the team is going to be different. So it's going to be an easy national championship."
Barkley channeled Santa by giving USC fans a huge gift Thursday in the form of "one more year." Maybe Barkley will give another present to fans around Christmastime next season. One in the form of a crystal ball.