By Jon Sauber | @JonSauber
Sports Capital Journalism Program
INDIANAPOLIS – Sam Darnold knows what it’s like to wait for a starting job. He arrived at Southern California and immediately redshirted, waiting in the wings behind starter Cody Kessler and his backup, Max Browne.
Darnold entered his redshirt freshman year as the backup, but quickly took the job from Browne, who had replaced the departed Kessler.
Darnold made his first career start for the Trojans in their fourth game of the season against Utah and never looked back. He led the Trojans to a 20-4 record in his 24 career starts while throwing for 7,229 passing yards and 57 touchdowns.
As Darnold spoke during the National Football League Scouting Combine, he said his success in that situation has helped prepare him for the possibility of being a backup at the start of his National Football League career.
“During that process,” he said, “I was preparing every single day to be the starter.”
Darnold added that the spotlight that shines on the Trojans’ football program has helped prepare him for the NFL.
“Being in (Los Angeles), being at USC has prepared me really well for the opportunity to go to a big stage like New York City,” Darnold said.
Even though he understands what it’s like to wait for a job and knows that he needs to improve his game, Darnold said he’s ready to play right away in the NFL.
“There’s a long way to the season, but I think I’m as ready as I can be,” Darnold said. “Then moving forward I’m going to continue to prepare and continue to refine my skills that I have.”
One of Darnold’s biggest advantages is his instincts. “I think I’m able to do things on the field that some guys aren’t able to do, in terms of instincts,” Darnold said. “I feel the game in certain ways.”
Those instincts aren’t the only factors to separate him from the other top quarterbacks in this class. While Baker Mayfield claimed to be the most accurate quarterback in the class, and Josh Allen said he believes he’s the number one quarterback in the class, Darnold chose a different path when asked how he compares.
“I don’t think [it’s] my position to be talking about anyone else or to say I’m the best quarterback in the draft,” Darnold said. “I think that’s for other people to decide. I’m really just here to put my best foot forward…give it my all and show teams why I should be with their organization.”
Darnold added that he isn’t overly concerned with where he ends up, and that he’s going to stay true to himself throughout the process.
“If (an organization doesn’t) want me, they don’t want me,” Darnold said, “It’s not my decision to make, so I’m just going to continue to be myself because it’s gotten me to this point.”