Santa Margarita (Calif.) Catholic center Brett Neilon knew all about USC.
He had been to the Coliseum before. His dad was a Trojan. So was his brother. He knew about the athletic programs as well since a pair of aunts both attended USC on golf scholarships. But when he went to USC’s spring scrimmage at the Coliseum on Saturday, he never expected he’d walk away with the opportunity to become a Trojan himself.
But head coach Clay Helton called him over after practice. The Trojans had been showing interest in the three-star offensive lineman since an unofficial visit Neilon took earlier this spring.
“We kind of huddled around. He said, 'I've been thinking about you all week. You're a special player. I'm the head coach now. There's usually a process we go through for offering guys, but I'm the head coach now and I want to skip that with you because I know your family. I know your grades. I know that you can get it done athletically.’ Basically, he just said, 'You have an offer to USC, the University of Southern California.’”
Neilon’s eyes lit up. It was the first time a coach had taken the time to present him with a potential scholarship in person. It was an unexpected offer and “definitely a big one,” he said.
“Just the way he did it. Then all the assistants came up to us and high-fived us.”
“That's an offer that will be in my memory. Just remembering back that's one that's going to stick with me. Just the love I received from that offer and getting it in person. I could tell genuinely that they want me as a player and as a person.
“It was just a whole different experience. It’s different from a phone call,” Neilon said. ”It was at the Coliseum field, so it was amazing.”
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Neilon has great growth potential as a player. He’s only been playing football for three years and is still learning some of the offensive line nuances. He describes himself as “an explosive player” that “definitely finishes through the whistle.” He is an athletic kid with a solid frame that could easily add some more weight at the next level.
USC wants Neilon as a center, which is where he is currently ranked — the top center in the West and No. 3 in the country at the position, but Neilon also has the mobility to potentially move to guard, if needed.
Neilon doesn’t currently have a timeline in mind for his collegiate decision, but could have a better idea at the end of the week. During his spring break, Neilon is out on the road exploring campuses on unofficial visits. Neilon is at Washington currently and plans to visit California on Wednesday with a trip to Michigan planned for Friday.
Along with those schools, he also holds offers from Pac-12 schools Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, UCLA and Washington State along with a handful of others from across the country. Neilon is hoping this week will give him better clarity on whether he wants to make an early decision and commit in the summer or if he wants to wait and take his official visits during the football season.
What he does know is that USC will be one of the schools in the running for his commitment.
"The history of Trojan football, growing up watching them. I know their alumni is great. I know their athletics are great. I know their academics are great. Their business school is something I'm very interested in. [The scholarship offer] was just meaningful for my whole family."
Check out Brett Neilon's highlights from his junior year at Santa Margarita Catholic: