Carson Palmer: Why leaving USC early was “never on my radar”


Few collegiate quarterbacks today exercise all four years of their eligibility, but if Arizona’s Carson Palmer were back at USC he would.

In fact, he might try to stay longer.

When Palmer played at USC, he had the chance to jump to the NFL following his junior season (2001) — with agents telling him it was the right move. But he refused, so happy to remain at USC that he admitted on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast that, were it possible, he would have stayed two more seasons.

Of course, he couldn’t, with Palmer leaving as a fifth-year senior, convinced he made the right decision by doing what virtually no collegiate quarterbacks do today — namely, telling the NFL to wait until he exercised his entire collegiate eligibility.

“It has changed, just in my last 14 or 15 years,” he said of the movement toward junior-eligibles to the pros. “Now, fifth-year seniors aren’t ready for the NFL because everybody is running college-style systems. Nobody is running pro-style systems.

“I got to the end of my junior year and had a bunch of agents and people telling me to come out, and I never wanted to — not even for a second. But you’re 20 or 21 years old, and you’re just trying to hear and listen to people who you think know what they’re talking about.

“I had different round projections, and I always felt I had a chance to be a top pick. I had some people telling me third round; some people telling me late first; some people (saying) second, fifth, seventh … everybody was all over the board.  And I learned going through that process that nobody knows. These experts and these agents and these guys that tell you one thing, then change their minds the next week… you just realize how quickly that nobody knows.

“I didn’t want to come out. I wanted to be there for that senior year with the group of guys I came in with. I just wanted to keep playing college football. I would’ve played another one if I could have.”

Palmer made a smart move by not moving at all. As a senior, he won the Heisman Trophy, led the Trojans to a fourth-place national ranking and was the first pick of the 2003 NFL draft. Good thing he didn’t listen to those who told him he was making a mistake.

“Back then, everybody wanted me to come out … except for myself,” he said. “I just felt I had the chance to continue to grow, to continue to develop and be a top pick, to continue to win games and, hopefully, to win a national championship.

“I never really thought that much about the Heisman. That wasn’t really on my radar. Obviously, it ended the way it did, but I really just wanted to continue playing play college football. SC is such a great place to play. It’s such a tremendous education. It’s a great school.There are unbelievable professors, and I really enjoyed my senior year.

“I came in with a really good class of guys. We went through coaching changes, and coach (Paul) Hackett got fired (following the 2000 season), and this new guy comes in who nobody knows anything about. All the media is doing is saying is that they hired the wrong guy in Pete Carroll. All the things were stacked up against us.

“It was an exciting time because we wanted to prove people wrong. We knew we had a good team, and we ended up going on and winning the Orange Bowl. And what an amazing experience that was for our group of guys and our senior class.

“So, it really wasn’t on my radar to come out. I didn’t want to come out. And I’m glad, looking back, that I got another year of college football underneath my belt. I ended up improving my draft status and learning more about the game and preparing myself for once I did finally get to the NFL. To have another year of experience … to have that much more underneath my bel … it was a huge building block for me.”

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