Matt Leinart, In His Own WordsFebruary 1, 2005
Sure, he can throw a ball, but did you know he’s a sociologist too?
He has led the Trojans to a 25-1 record since starting as USC’s quarterback his sophomore year in 2003. In those 26 games at USC, the 6’5”, 225-pound, left-hander has had 6,878 career passing yards and 71 touchdown passes. In the 2004 season, he won the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, the Heisman Trophy and his second consecutive National Championship, and in January, made the widely publicized decision to return to USC for his senior year. Although Matt Leinart passed up the NFL draft and a potential multimillion-dollar paycheck, he says he has no regrets to finish his degree in sociology at USC College. The College’s own answers a few questions for us while recovering from a recent elbow operation.
What do you enjoy about your Sociology major?
ML: I especially like my social psychology class with Dr. Julie Albright. Among the things I enjoy about the class is its focus on relationships and interactions between people and how it's possible to read people. It's something you can see in action every day.
You talked about pursuing “multiple careers.” How will your education here help you accomplish that? Can you elaborate on some of your plans?
ML: Well, I plan on getting my degree and I'll go from there. Obviously, I'd like to play in the NFL. But I've made a lot of connections at USC and have met a lot of people here with a great deal of influence. If football doesn't work out, I've got the knowledge from my degree and the Trojan Family network to start again.
You’ve said: “College football and this whole atmosphere here is ultimately more satisfying and will make me happier than any amount of money could make someone happy.” What is it about USC that you enjoy so much?
ML: I enjoy the atmosphere, my friends, the people on campus and being in Southern California -- just being around campus is a good feeling. And with the way the sports program and academic program are going, there's no better feeling than to be a Trojan.
People just can’t seem to believe you’re giving up millions. How do you feel about the heat?
ML: I was trying not to care what other people were saying. I knew a lot of people were saying I'd be crazy to give up the money. But it was my decision and I was going to do what made me happy. But now, a lot of people have congratulated me on my decision to finish my degree in sociology.
What is the significance of the Number 11?
ML: It was the number I wore playing baseball. I wore No. 7 in football, but when I came here, Sandy Fletcher had that number. So I chose 11.
Who do you most liken yourself to as a quarterback and why?
ML: Tom Brady. He's just a great QB who plays with a lot of poise.
Comments on the 2004 Season?
ML: Last season was fantastic. A lot of people questioned our ranking at the start of the season and didn't think we deserved to be No. 1, so it felt great to be able to go wire-to-wire and prove them wrong. There were definitely a lot of challenges along the way and we faced some adversity, which made us better. Coming back against Stanford and holding off Cal are the kind of games that make you stronger and prepare you for tests down the line. We finished the year off beating our rivals in back-to-back weeks and blowing out Oklahoma. You couldn't have asked for anything better.
—Interview conducted by Katherine Yungmee Kim