Leonard, Nelson, Buck say goodbye

The Florida trio of Leonard Williams, Nelson Agholor and Buck Allen will miss USC at least as much as USC will miss them.

They called it Pro Day but it was more than that at USC Wednesday. Just no graduation day speaker but the same sense of accomplishment for three special Trojans from Florida who had come back for a day as they prepared to move on.

And yet they weren't moving on, not really. As Leonard Williams, Buck Allen and Nelson Agholor made clear, this will always be home to them wherever they end up in the NFL.

Leonard was the focal point, for sure, with an athletic performance for a large crowd of NFL people and an especially large group of Tennessee Titans, coaches and scouts, who will have the second overall pick in the draft and have been very strongly involved with him in recent weeks.

He talked about where he might be selected and what it could mean, with a big grin and laugh. "If they pick a quarterback over me, they better know I'll take him down later."

But then he said something really special for folks who care about USC: "I definitely want to be a first-round prospect," he said. "We haven't had one for a while."

Actually it's just the last two years when Robert Woods and Marqise Lee dropped to the second round. Matt Kalil and Nick Perry in 2012 were the last USC first-rounders. But for Leonard, still just 20 years old, that probably seems like a long time.

But even more, there was Leonard's sentiment of wanting to get this done for USC. "That's him," Steve Sarkisian said. "He loves being here. If you took the money out of it, he'd be out here practicing with us tomorrow [Thursday]. At the end of the day, he loves USC. He knows this is a special place, like we all do. He'll do anything for USC."

He wasn't alone, but Leonard went first in talking of his USC experience. Sounding like an alum already, after going through practice and team meetings Tuesday, he said "We'll be back and we have the best recruiting class coming in."

And even as they exit the NCAA sanctions and scholarship limitations, "We still have the most players in the NFL," Sark said.

Talking about his whirlwind last couple of months, Leonard said his time at USC "definitely prepared me for the Combine and the interviews . . . " and all the rest of it. "We've had a lot of media training," not to mention lots of media exposure, Sark said, with lots of practice. "The media at practice" helps, Leonard said.

It's no coincidence that when a Scout publisher in Indianapolis videotaped 75 NFL Combine interviews and picked the best five, two were Trojans -- Leonard and Nelson.

"It means a lot," Nelson said of his time at USC. "This university took me in all the way from Florida. Now I'm a Trojan, a Trojan for life.

"This is an amazing place, they develop you for all aspects of life. They put a camera in front of you, you talk ball,' Nelson said, "and you talk life . . . I am so blessed to be here. I learned so much about myself -- and life."

And football. How to compete. How to use each day to get better. How not to let setbacks set him back. "That's always been my standard -- to progress every day," Nelson said.

No one progressed more than the third member of the Florida Trojan trio, Buck was saying of himself at being where he is on this day. "It's a blessing, every little kid's dream."

And having his Florida guys to go through it with helped. "We all just connected," Buck said, "we connected with all of this . . . and we always pushed each other."

For Buck, that push helped "especially in the classroom," where he started out behind as a late arrival and the first in his family to attend college to "getting my degree in May." He'd promised his grandma he would do that. And now he will.

"I've changed a lot . . . it's been a blessing to be here at the University of Southern California," Buck said.

No more the quiet, uncertain kid out of his element, Buck was asked to describe himself as he would tell teams in interviews exactly who they're getting: He's "smart, physical, tough," he says and the way he's gotten where he is now proves that.

All the tough times, the fighting to get up to speed in the classroom while battling to keep from being buried on the depth chart while working through the coaching changes have been "a blessing" (there's that word again) . . . "I wouldn't take anything back."

Neither would USC fans. Not for this trio even though they all could have -- hypothetically -- come back for next season. What they'll leave behind makes it seem like in many ways, they haven't departed.

And for one final day Wednesday, they hadn't.


You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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