FROM PLAYER PERSONNEL TO PLAYER
When I signed my letter of intent to go to USC as a senior in high school, I figured I had stepped foot on the football field for the final time until family Thanksgiving football games. Four years later and my life’s flipped upside down — I now find myself part of a team competing for a national championship, protecting the reigning Heisman winner.
I’m not like most football players at USC who are on scholarship or have been heavily recruiting since the waning days of high school. Back then, the only looks I got were from D-2 schools in Colorado — where I was from — and a walk-on spot at CU Boulder. While the game of football was held close to my heart, the uncertainty of these options weighed over me drastically. After some deep thought and conversation with my parents, I figured it would be best to forgo my football career and pursue my long-term future at USC.
As I tried my hand at being just a student, I felt lost. I missed being a football player. While I knew my chances of playing ball again were slim to none; I had to get involved in other ways. I reached out to the athletic department and was able to join the football team through player-personal my sophomore year. There, I helped USC recruit and fill out the position that I played in high school: offensive line. It was a surreal experience for me to be on the other side of the ball. While I wasn’t making plays on the field for the Trojans, I knew I could still have an impact on the program by finding successful recruits who fit the USC bill.
When Clay Helton got fired in the winter of my sophomore year, I saw a shift in the dynamic of the football squad right away. The same team that looked defeated and lifeless in the fall shifted 180 under Lincoln Riley and his new coaching staff. I immediately noticed a change in practice culture as well; the players were having fun again. In the back of my mind, I knew that if I could somehow make my way onto that field, I would not regret it.
In the back of my mind, I knew that if I could somehow make my way onto that field, I would not regret it.
One spring practice the unthinkable happened: the Director of Player Personnel, Drew Fox, approached me and told me he had a new opportunity for me, this time to join the team as a player. That conversation was the final push I needed to lace up my cleats and try out for the Trojans. The tryout lasted all of 30 minutes, but that was all I needed to prove myself as a player. A few days later, I got notified that I made the team as a walk-on. From player personnel to player, my life did a 180, for the better.
As a walk-on, you have to earn the respect of all the established players and coaches alike. USC restricts walk-ons from suiting up until they’ve ensured that they are committed to the process and not here for the clout and free gear. I showed up 30 minutes early for 5 a.m. workouts and stayed after cleaning up and watching extra film just to prove myself. It was tiring and draining, and there were moments when I questioned if it was really worth it, but after five hard-fought weeks, I was finally able to put on that uniform for the first time in a game since high school. As I ran out of the tunnel against Arizona State gracing the Cardinal and Gold, all the grit and dedication was worth it in a matter of seconds.
As I ran out of the tunnel against Arizona State gracing the Cardinal and Gold, all the grit and dedication was worth it in a matter of seconds.
After my first season at USC, I had a tough decision to make in the offseason regarding my future. I had an offer for an internship in New York, and I knew that if I accepted the offer, I would miss out on all the summer workouts and camps. I was conflicted because I knew I would be risking my spot as a walk-on if I took the offer. Fortunately for me, my coaches at USC were extremely supportive and encouraged me to prioritize my future, so long as I did and sent my summer workouts daily. While being a walk-on for a Top-25 team usually entails me being at the bottom of the pack, at USC that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even as a walk-on, my coaches at USC prioritized me as a person and not just as a player to win games.
While my eyes are set on a national championship this season, I can’t help but look forward to life after I graduate and cross the stage in the spring. Yearning to work in Investment Banking in New York, I know how cutthroat of an environment I’m getting myself into, but I’m ready thanks in part to football. The coaching staff and players at USC created an atmosphere that pushed me to grow as a person through levels of high expectations and discipline. Working crazy hours for banking won’t be out of the ordinary for me after managing school with 4:30 a.m. workouts and two-a-days. These skills go further than just the field. While this will likely be my last season, the impact of the game will stay with me forever.