It wasn't all that long ago standing next to Mark Sanchez in that crowded early morning press conference and wondering if we were the only person in the room -- Mark's family included -- who were thinking he was doing the right thing to say goodbye to college football and wishing him well as he exited.
Take the money and run has mostly been the way we've looked at this. You do not owe it to your school or your coaches or your teammates or the fans of your program to stay and play. You owe it to yourself and your family to do the right thing. Get your degree is one of the things you owe yourself having invested so much time and energy into college. That's a given.
But it's not the most important thing here. Getting your playing career off to the right start, giving yourself the best chance for long-term success, is No. 1. Nothing else comes close. With the advantage of hindsight, the Matts -- Leinart and Barkley -- both probably should have gone on to the NFL, saying "See ya' " after their junior years.
It's a story that will be with USC football -- we can only hope -- forever. That year after year, USC will have players capable of making that jump after their third year in college. Hello Sam Darnold, who after less than a single season, is projected to go in the first two -- with Heisman winner Lamar Jackson -- in the 2018 draft. It's the way of the world.
But is it the way of Adoree' Jackson's world now that he's a Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back and a consensus two-position All-American after his junior season? Does track star Adoree' just take the money and run? An easy call, right? He's ready to go, so go.
Or is there another way here for him to think about? We think there may be. But this is all on Adoree'. It's completely up to him and what he wants. This is not about USC here.
Coming out of Serra High, Adoree' actually told people he wanted to win the Thorpe although who ever says something like that -- and then he did.
He also told people he wanted to win the Heisman. Even posed with the trophy in that photo on a plane. And wasn't among the top 11 there even though his three-way body of work would have certainly seemed to more than equal that of two-way Michigan star Jabril Peppers.
And is he trying to tell us something with his latest 'Adoree' knows' tweet -- "Hei2man 2017 . . . Adoree' Jackson"?
But this isn't about awards, this is about what's best for Adoree'. Could he head off to the NFL right now and have a long, successful career as a corner and kick-returner? Of course he could.
Through hard work and determination, Adoree' has become a very solid pass defender, a great tackler and a smart takeaway artist. He's a good one. No need to tell you that.
But put the ball in his hands and he's a once-in-a-generation talent, the kind of creative athlete there are way too few of in today's hard-to-watch, excitement-free NFL.
So we ask this question: What if Adoree' decided to follow his talents and flipped sides to where he could be as good as anyone who came into the league in a decade? What if he decided to give the Heisman a shot?
What if he decided to take a final season and be the first player ever to win the Thorpe one year and the Biletnikoff the next? What if he decided that by pairing up with Sam as USC's first option on offense he would become something unlike very few NFL prospects we've seen and in doing so, increase both his value and long-term financial well-being despite the fact that the best defenders usually earn more?
What if he decided he'd like to stay in college, get his degree and improve his craft -- not to mention his brand -- in a final season where he takes full advantage of some of the best hands in college football? Takes advantage of his athleticism that allows him to dunk a basketball on a 12-foot basket. Of his near-world-class leaping and running ability?
What if Adoree' decides that his unique ability to create with the ball in his hands, to run it, catch it and decoy it, puts him in a place like no other NFL prospect of his generation? What if he looks at the top receivers coming out this year and says to himself, "I can do that -- and better"?
What if he looks to next year and says that with Sam, and Ronald Jones and a whole host of pass-catching tight ends and all the new blood at wide receiver, he could lead this USC program all the way back? What if he calculates that in the long run financially, there would be no better way for him to go for his family?
What if he decides, reasonably we'd say, that he'll be better off making people react to him as a player than him having to react to them? What if he decides that, after looking at his productivity this past season with so few chances, that if he's targeted 10 to 15 times as a receiver, and given another five to 10 carries a game from all sorts of positions on the field, he could impact college football in ways it's hard to imagine?
We'd say those would all be rational considerations. And worth thinking about. But is there more that could be done here right now to help decide this? Again, we think there is.
How about in the next three weeks, looking at an opponent where there's no single wide receiver who will require the kind of attention that Washington's John Ross needed, the USC Rose Bowl game plan goes there -- to 2017? What if the emergence of young players in the secondary like Ajene Harris and Jack Jones allows the Trojans to go there right now?
What if USC gives Adoree' a chance to see what it would be like in a world where he's an offensive player first? Not sure Penn State would much like that. Who could blame them?
The only problem we could see is what it would do to the expectations of the college football world -- not to mention the USC fan base -- for the possibilities for 2017. Because this isn't about them.
It's all about Adoree' -- and what's best for him. USC fans can only hope that Adoree' decides that what's best for him -- and for USC -- are one and the same.
We think they could be. But then again, what we think doesn't matter. What Adoree' thinks is all that does. Could the Rose Bowl give him a glimpse of what his senior season might look like if . . . ?
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