The USC Trojans rallied from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to beat Penn State 52-49 with a last second 46-yard Matt Boermeester field goal in the 2017 Rose Bowl. During that fourth quarter rally, redshirt freshman and Rose Bowl Offensive MVP Sam Darnold went 10-for-10 and looked unflappable, proving the moment wasn’t too much for the 19-year-old. On Wednesday, Darnold joined The Jim Rome Show and talked about his calm demeanor during his team’s come from behind victory.
“I mean I was feeling a little bit of emotion, but I mean you can’t really show that,” Darnold said. “As a quarterback, you want to be poised and I think I did a really good job of that, but it’s also who I am. So with the combination of all that, I’m never going to shy away from who I am, I never have. I have full confidence in myself to just be able to go out there, show my abilities and do it to the best of my ability and never shy away from that.”
After a 1-2 start to their 2016 season, Darnold replaced Max Browne as the team’s starting quarterback and talked about how he was able to succeed after being thrust right into the spotlight.
“I think it starts with preparation. Even last year when Cody (Kessler) was the starter, I prepared every single game like I was the starter,” Darnold said. “Took a couple notes from Cody I knew how to prepare from him and Max, and even through that 3 game stretch there, where Max was the starter, I was preparing every single game as though I was going to be the starter. So that was my whole mindset last year and at the beginning of this year, and I think that’s where it really paid off for me, and I got to progress that way and be able to mature that way as well.”
Preparation and good genes also helps. Darnold comes from a long line of athletes in his family, none better than his grandfather, a former Olympian, fire fighter, actor, and Marlboro Man, Dick Hammer. His grandfather passed away while Darnold was young, but the signal caller still remembers stories of how great he was.
“I just know he was a stud,” Darnold said of his grandfather. “The one story that always stuck out to me was he was 60-years-old and playing one-on-one against my dad, and my dad was in his prime athletically, mid-twenties-thirties, somewhere around there, and I just remember they were playing one-on-one, my grandpa, we called him grampsy, he actually beat him, he was able to shoot jumpers over him and back him down in the post and do everything like that.
“So just hearing that story and hearing his athletic ability, but also doing it with so much pride and I just wish I could have met him officially, but just hearing the stories it really shined a light on our whole family and just what he was able to do with his whole life. If I could do half of what he did, that would be amazing.”