I definitely agree with that. I am so much more mentally and physically prepared to go through the process than I would have been at this point last year. What I've gone through, I can't explain it. There are just so many people watching you, examining you, checking on everything. I needed the time to mature and learn how to handle it let alone deal with the football side. I probably would have been ready to handle it last year but I'm so much more ready now. Now, after staying for another year, I can say I accomplished everything I could and I learned as much as I could. The journey keeps going but when I look back on my college life from where it all began and how it turned out, I have no regrets.
I can't imagine any college quarterback has been under more of a microscope and that has to help prepare you for the NFL.
Being an NFL quarterback, it is what it is. Hopefully they can take a look at what I went through at USC with all the expectations and realize that I handled it as well as anybody could. I would have to think that what I went through prepared me as much as any college quarterback could be prepared. I had to deal with as much media as anybody and it gets to the point where you become so comfortable that you are at ease and you can be more yourself. When you first do it you want to make sure everything you say is politically correct. It was good practice for sitting down with GM's because I want them to see who I am, they need to hear it from the source if they are going to look at drafting me for their team.
What were the benefits to you by staying for your senior year?
I'm healthy. I'm stronger and quicker. My arm is so much stronger than it was a year ago. I'm more mentally sharp, both in football and in non-football areas. I think by staying I maximized my opportunity to learn as much as I possibly could. When I was going through the draft process and meeting with all the teams they would always ask what I know, they want to know how well you recognize defenses and stuff like that. I think I'm going to know as much as any college quarterback coming into the league.
Is it nice to have stayed for your senior year and had so many more memories while still keeping yourself positioned well for the NFL?
I never thought I would be at this point. It's hard to explain, you want to do well in your career and sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes they don't. I think I learned a lot about myself with some of the struggles that I had. I grew up a lot. I was just able to run with it and I managed to basically stay the same guy that I was when I came to USC. People can change, the temptations and distractions that are thrown your way can be pretty unbelievable at times. You just have to realize that there is a time for fun but there are also times when football is important. I went through all that and I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.
What will you miss the most about college life?
Waking up every day and not having to worry about too much. When you're in school you don't have the responsibilities that I'm having now. I feel like I'm a grown up now who needs to make business decisions. I'll also miss the guys, just hanging out, the camaraderie.
Talk about playing football at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
It's unbelievable. Being a captain for the past two years, my favorite part of the Coliseum experience was when the captains walk down the tunnel and right when we come out of the tunnel the fans just go nuts. I also liked it when the coin toss was done and the captains are standing on the sideline while the rest of the team gathers in the tunnel, they start playing that song and the team gets all fired up and runs on the field, there's no better feeling than that. I liked when we would go through stretching and the band would come out, they always came out at the same time and when they started playing you knew it was game time. I love the Coliseum. When you put on that uniform and walk down that tunnel you know you are in a sacred place.
What are your thoughts on the Trojan Marching Band?
They are the best band in America and it's fun to be a part of that. They get us ready to play. Everybody at SC knows how important the band is. I was lucky enough to get some opportunities to lead the band after big wins. To be up on that platform waving the sword in front of 80 or 90 thousand people is a feeling that you can't even imagine.
What has your schedule been like since the Rose Bowl?
I'm still living in the same downtown apartment. For the first few months after the season I was just working out for the combine and Pro Day. After that it was just a job interview process flying around and meeting with different teams. It was fun, I met some cool people and got to stay in some cool places. They just ask you every imaginable question you can think of. It's tough but it's fun. The questions are just trying to see what kind of person you are, they already know what kind of player you are so they want to see you under pressure and they will try to rattle you. There are no wrong answers really, you just have to be yourself and you'll be fine.
As you look back right now, what are the memories that stand out for you on the field?
The Notre Dame game this past year. Going through all that we did in that game was unbelievable. Winning the national championships. My senior year, my last game in the Coliseum against UCLA. Those are some of the memories that really stand out right now.
Do you have a final message for Trojan fans?
It's been a fun ride. I appreciate all the support on and off the field for the last five years. It has been the best time of my life and a lot of that is because of their support. Thank you very much and Fight On.