"It was an amazing trip. They just did such a great job of going through everything, there was so much information given and they explained every scenario you could imagine for a parent about to send their kid to college. It was impressive. There was so much chaos this week leading up to the visit with coaches interviewing at other schools and players flying all over the country for awards that we thought things might have been a little crazy on the trip but it was very organized.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and got checked in and they had a session where we got to know the other players and their parents. That night we just went back to the hotel and had dinner so it was pretty low-key.
On Saturday morning we had an early breakfast meeting in the Varsity Lounge with the coaches. At one point after breakfast Coach Carroll told all the players to go across the hall to the team meeting room because the team was getting ready to meet before practice that day. All of a sudden we hear all this screaming from the room, people are just going crazy and they invited the parents to come in. It was neat to see the meeting room (Pat was an All-American offensive lineman at USC in the 70's) and to see how much the players do the same things we used to do before meetings. We used to do all kinds of diagrams on the boards, we would do impressions of the coaches, all that stuff. Matt Cassel did an impression of Pete Carroll while we were there and the place just erupted. It was neat to see those kind of traditions had been passed on.
After that we went downstairs at Heritage Hall for some academic meetings and that was one of the best things of the trip. We went through everything they do to help the athlete, the tutoring, the way they monitor things, it was great. After that we took a tour of the locker room and went to watch practice. When practice was over we met with Chris Carlisle and then we went on a campus tour.
When the campus tour was done we all got on buses to go to Papadakis Taverna. What a great experience that was. John Papadakis gave a speech about the history and tradition of the Greeks, his daughter came out and did a Greek dance, before we knew it plates and glasses were breaking all over the place, it was wild. Different players got up and announced that they were coming to SC and Carroll hugged them all. The coaches were just ecstatic. After that the belly dancers came out and performed, we definitely got the full experience.
We went straight from Papadakis' to the Coliseum. When the buses pulled up to the Coliseum we went to the locker room and it gives me chills to talk about what happened. When they went into the locker room each player had their jersey and equipment waiting for them in the lockers, the coaches told them to put the jerseys on and head to the field. When they left the locker room to start walking down the tunnel the coaches had them doing the same chant the players do for a game. When they came out of the tunnel the lights for the stadium were off but the videoboard was on and they were playing Conquest on the loudspeakers. It was awesome. Before they ran on the field a couple of the players like Deuce, Ryan Kalil and Brandon Hancock took the recruits to the side and taught them a couple of the traditions the team does but the parents couldn't hear what was being said. The next thing you know the players sprint on the field and they start lining up and running plays. The kids loved it. After a while Pete Carroll looks at his watch and says "We need to get back to campus, the Heisman Trophy is going to be announced in a few minutes". I guess we were supposed to have dessert in the press box of the Coliseum but that got scratched because of the Heisman deal. We all got back to Heritage Hall and went into the coaches office for the announcement. Matt won and the place just went crazy, as you can imagine. Pete was near tears, it looked like he was in shock. The timing couldn't have been better for the recruits to be a part of a moment like that.
The best part of the trip, for me, was when Pete came into the Varsity Lounge to talk with the parents and answer any questions they had. He looked us in the eye and said "This is how I feel. You can ask any of the players, I treat everybody the same. It doesn't matter if you're Matt Leinart or if you're a walk-on, they all get the same shot. I wrap my arms around all of them. We want them to not only play football but to go off in life as better individuals. That's what gets me going." He also got asked about the possibility of returning to the NFL and he gave an answer that got a lot of laughs, he said "They didn't want me then but we've got a great thing going now and all of sudden they think I'm great again. I've got no intentions of returning to the NFL". One thing Pete said that I found interesting was when he said "It's not about winning every game right now. Any coach can win a title but what drives me is to find out how long we can keep it going. That's how you build a legacy. If we stretch this thing out then that's something to talk about". I think that statement put a lot of minds at ease. One parent asked him about the opportunities to come back to school if a player excels and wants to consider going pro after his junior year but hadn't graduated yet. Carroll said USC allows them to come back and finish up their schooling at any point, he said it hurts the school if a player doesn't do that. The offer to come back is good forever and that's something I didn't know. I thought it was a closed end offer that had a time limit but apparently not. I think that's a great thing, if you come back at any point USC will pay for you to get the classes you need to graduate.
Ryan Kalil was the host for Nick and that couldn't have worked out better. They are so similar. Both were pretty light in high school, both had dads who played OL, both talked about how they heard the same speeches from their dads over the years, both caught the attention of the USC coaches at the summer camps, both are artists. That part was neat because Nick can really draw and it turns out Ryan can draw, he sings, it was just uncanny how similar they are so that was a great match for his host. They got along really well.
We're just so thrilled right now for Nick. If I had one wish it would be to do USC all over again because the experiences that I had were so special. To have the opportunity now to watch my son get to experience the same thing is absolutely priceless."