Carson Palmer - USC 1999 Bio

  Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer
Player Profile
Laguna Niguel
High School:
Santa Margarita Catholic
Height / Weight:
6-5 / 220

CAREER: Palmer already ranks 15th on USC's career passing list, with 169 completions. He has started 8 games in his 2-year career.

2000: Palmer, who figures to be among the nation's premier quarterbacks in 2000, returns as USC's starter as a sophomore after an injury knocked him out of the lineup early in 1999.

PAUL HACKETT SAYS: "Carson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the country. His pure passing ability sets him apart. He was off to a great start last season before getting hurt. He is 100% healthy now and there is no reason that he can't be ahead of where he was last year by the time the 2000 season starts."

1999: Palmer, coming off an eye-opening 1998 campaign, was off to an impressive beginning while starting USC's first 3 games (Hawaii, San Diego State and Oregon) of 1999 at quarterback as a sophomore. But he broke his right collarbone 2 plays before halftime (scrambling for a 3-yard gain) at Oregon and was sidelined the rest of the season (because of the early-season injury, he was allowed to redshirt). Overall in 1999, he completed 39-of-53 passes (73.6%) for 490 yards with 3 TDs and 3 interceptions. He also had 7 carries for 2 yards (0.3 avg.) with a TD. He was a near-perfect 14-of-16 (87.5%) for 167 yards and a 32-yard TD pass at Hawaii (he was never sacked) and also ran 9 yards for a score on a bootleg in just over 2 quarters of action. He played the whole game against San Diego State, where he was 16-of-24 for 188 yards and 2 TDs, but threw a pair of interceptions. At Oregon, he completed 9-of-13 passes for 135 yards (with a pick) before getting injured.

PAUL HACKETT SAYS: "There isn't a younger, yet more experienced quarterback in the country than Carson. He has that rare combination of being young, but already having played against some of the nation's top teams, such as Florida State, Notre Dame and UCLA. His pure passing ability sets him apart. His development as an overall quarterback, particularly in his decision making, will be the key to his progress."

1998: Just a first-year freshman, Palmer showed his precociousness with an impressive showing at quarterback. After sharing playing time with starter Mike Van Raaphorst in USC's first 8 games, Palmer took over the starting job against Washington to become only the second true freshman to start at quarterback for USC (along with Rob Johnson, who started once in 1991) and continued as the starter against Stanford, UCLA, Notre Dame and TCU in the Sun Bowl. Overall while appearing in all 13 games in 1998, Palmer was 130-of-235 (55.3%) for 1,755 yards and 7 TDs with 6 interceptions. His 130 completions ranks 17th on USC's season passing chart. He also carried the ball 47 times for -116 yards (-2.5 avg.) with a TD. In the Purdue opener, he appeared on 3 series in the second half and led USC to 17 points while going 3-of-6 for 79 yards. The pattern held true against San Diego State, as he was 5-of-8 for 50 yards and 1 score (the first of his career) seeing action in 3 second-half series. Against Oregon State, he hit just 1-of-7 throws for 6 yards playing in 5 series in the second and third quarters. He struggled at Florida State (2-of-10 for 18 yards) while playing all but the first series of the second half. In the Arizona State game, he came off the bench late in the third quarter to guide Troy on a TD drive and spark USC's comeback (he was 4-of-7 for 69 yards and a TD overall in 3 series). He played just 2 series in the third quarter against California, hitting 1-of-2 passes for 9 yards. He was 8-of-16 for 143 yards and a TD while leading USC to 28 unanswered points at Washington State when he came in midway through the second quarter when Van Raaphorst became ill. At Oregon, he was 10-of-19 for 179 yards as he saw action in most of the second quarter, the end of the third quarter and all of the final quarter. He played the entire Washington game, hitting 18-of-31 passes for 279 yards (all then-career highs) and a TD to become only USC's second true freshman starting quarterback. At Stanford, he went 19-of-26 (a then-career-best for completions; 2 passes were dropped, including 1 in the end zone) for 203 yards and a TD while going the whole way. He was 28-of-43 (both career bests) for 252 yards and a TD (but he threw 2 interceptions) while going the whole way at UCLA. He was 14-of-32 for 188 yards against Notre Dame and he ran for his first career touchdown (a 2-yarder to put USC on the board and give Troy its decisive points) while playing the entire game. Against TCU in the Sun Bowl, he completed17-of-28 passes for a career-best 280 yards and 1 TD, but was sacked 6 times.

HIGH SCHOOL: He earned 1997 Super Prep National 50, The Sporting News Top 100, Super Prep All-American, Prep Star Dream Team, Prep Star All-American, USA Today All-USA honorable mention, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western Region Super 30, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team (unanimous), Cal-Hi Sports All-State first team, All-CIF Southern Section first team, All-CIF Division V Offensive Co-MVP, Los Angeles Times All-Orange County first team, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-Seaview League Offensive MVP honors as a senior at Santa Margarita High in Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.). In 1997, he completed 136-of-216 passes (63.0%) for 2,685 yards, 31 TDs and just 4 interceptions, plus ran for 290 yards and 3 scores. He did all this despite missing 2 earlier-season games with a foot injury. Santa Margarita went 14-0 in 1997 and won its second consecutive CIF Division V championship; in that title game, Palmer threw for a school-record 419 yards with 5 TDs and ran for another TD. Earlier in 1997, he threw for 356 yards in a game and had 5 TD tosses in less than 2 quarters of action in another contest.

As a junior in 1996, he made the Cal-Hi Sports Junior All-State second team, All-Seaview League first team and team Offensive MVP while completing 58.0% of his passes for 2,089 yards, 25 TDs and 5 interceptions. Santa Margarita went 13-1 in 1996 and was the 1996 CIF Division V champ. In his career, he set 23 school records while going 261-of-435 (60.0%) for 4,692 yards and 55 TDs with just 10 interceptions. He also ran for 565 yards (including 150 yards in a game) with 10 scores in his career. Current Trojan Matt Nickels also prepped at Santa Margarita.

Palmer also played basketball at Santa Margarita (he averaged 8.0 points and 8.0 rebounds as a 1998 senior) and was named to the 1998 Student Sports Grid-Hoops All-American second team. Santa Margarita went 32-2 in 1998 and won the 1998 CIF and State Division II titles.

PERSONAL: His personal quarterback coach was Bob Johnson, the father of ex-USC (1991-94) and current NFL star signalcaller Rob Johnson. He was born in Fresno, Calif. He says the funniest thing that happened to him in a game was when he twice "lined up to take a snap from the left guard." His most thrilling moment in sports was winning the 1998 state high school basketball title.


His 1998 performance: "I never expected to be starting. I just hoped to contribute...Not a lot of people do start at quarterback as a freshman. I'm thankful I got the chance...My goal was to come in and play. I didn't want to redshirt. I didn't think I would start. The playbook was so overwhelming. I didn't think I would get it down in one year."

The 1999 season: "I can't wait for 1999. Everywhere I go, people say they expect us to win. But that's what I expect, too. Anything else would be a disappointment."

His on-field composure: "I just don't have a bad temper. I'm pretty easygoing about everything...I'm just concentrating on the plays and what's going on, so I don't get that nervous. I've always been the youngest guy on the team ever since fifth grade because I weighed more than everybody else, and I had to go up to the higher division. So maybe that's where it comes from."

Improving: "I still have a long, long, long way to go. I've learned a ton, but there's twice I need to learn in the next couple of years...It's not technique as much as it is mental. You've got to know what the defense is doing. I think that's where I've come along the most, reading coverages, picking out where the corners aren't as good as the opposite ones, and deciding where to go with the ball...You can always get quicker and faster, work harder on your dropback, accuracy on your deep ball. But the main thing is to get those footsteps down."

Being a leader: "You can be a leader at any age as long as guys have your respect. If you get the job done, people will look up to you to be a leader."

USC's playbook: "I haven't seen the whole thing. I think it's as big as the Bible. There's a ton of stuff you have to know. It's not just plays. It has what everyone's responsibilities are on ever play and it goes over certain situations. From week to week, it changes. Coach Hackett is the only person who knows 100 percent of the playbook. I'm sure he has the entire thing in a glass cage in his house somewhere. There's no such thing as an easy playbook. But his is unique."

Mike Van Raaphorst: "The night I found out I was starting for the first time, I told Mike, 'I know it's hard, but I don't want to mess up what's between us.' He was like an extra tutor for me. Ever since I got here he was my workout partner, showing me the plays. He's helped a lot...It worked out well. Mike's always helping me out, quizzing me, getting me through the playbook. As the (1998) season progressed and the roles ended up changing, he never changed as a person. He always had my back and I commend him for that...If he would've acted any differently, I don't think it would've worked out as well as it has. He's been so supportive of me. He's been helping me out with stuff I've been having trouble with...If anything, the quarterback change has brought us closer. He still helps me as much as ever."

Choosing USC: "It probably started when I was in the ninth grade and some of my friends' parents would take us to USC football games. I just fell in love with everything about their football games and the tradition. I always imagined myself running out of the Coliseum tunnel toward the field."

His future: "I'm not setting myself up for the NFL. I'm not trying to do anything special to go to the NFL, but if it happens, it happens. If that's where God wants me to go, it's going to happen. But I also want to work in business, maybe work in health insurance."

His bi-coastal family (his father took a job in Connecticut prior to his junior prep year, while the rest of the family stayed in California so he could continue at Santa Margarita): "I felt real guilty because I was putting them through this for me. My dad only got to see his family one-and-a-half days a week. But it kept me aligned, kept me focused, because I knew all the sacrifices my family was going through."

His cooking ability: "I don't cook anything unless I can pop it into the microwave. I don't even have pots or pans. Mostly, I eat at a catering truck by my place!"


Shana Newell, El Paso Times: "Rarely has a Trojan quarterback demonstrated as much promise as Carson Palmer. He could become USC's biggest name yet."

USC tailback Chad Morton: "He's very calm. He doesn't get too excited, too emotional. He's going to be a great leader for this team. Looking at him, you have all this confidence in him. He has a great attitude."

USC wide receiver R. Jay Soward: "I call him 'Little Man.' I can't quite call him 'The Man' yet, because he's still young."

Former USC wide receiver Mike Bastianelli: "He brings an air of confidence with him."

USC tailback Petros Papadakis: "Someday I can tell my kids that Carson Palmer handed me the ball once."

USC offensive coordinator Hue Jackson: "He makes good things happen."

Former USC All-American quarterback Paul McDonald, now USC's radio analyst: "He's so far ahead of the learning curve, it's scary."

Former USC wide receiver Billy Miller: "I knew he was the guy the first time he came into the huddle. Just the fact that he has field presence. You feel a little something different. There's a confidence that comes over the team...He has a big responsibility. He's labeled now as the star of the team. That's a heavy burden to carry. He has to understand what he's about to go through. He'll be expected to carry the Trojans to the promised land every year. But he has to understand that when things go wrong, and things go wrong for everybody, to hang in there. He has to realize who his real friends are and don't feed too much into the hype. He'll be all-everything, people will expect him to complete 100 percent of his passes and lead the nation in passing and he has to show leadership at a young age."

UCLA head coach Bob Toledo: "He's a rising star."

UCLA tailback DeShaun Foster, a high school rival: "In high school, you're not prepared for quarterbacks like him. Carson's arm was unbelievable and it was so accurate."

UCLA cornerback Julius Williams, another prep rival: "If a receiver has a little bit of room and the defensive back is not covering him completely, Carson is going to throw the ball right there and there's no way the defensive back is going to get the ball."

Santa Margarita High coach Jim Hartigan: "Carson has the size of Troy Aikman and the arm strength of John Elway. He's got the super quick release of Dan Marino and the ability to put zip on the ball or touch depending on what the situation calls for. He is extremely calm and poised and he always makes the right decisions. He thrives on pressure. The bigger the game, the better he performs."

Tustin High coach Myron Miller: "He stood back there and it was like he had a cannon for an arm and every ball was perfect."

His father, Bill: "The first comment anybody made to us, since he was a quarterback in the ninth grade, was how much poise he had. Don't misread him. He's very competitive. He doesn't like to lose. He's always been easygoing. What's going on inside is probably different."


PA PC PI PCT YDS TD LG TCB YDS AV TD LG 1998 (Fr.)... 235 130 6 .553 1755 7 66 47 -116 -2.5 1 27

TAC LS/YDS DFL FR 1998 (Fr.)... 2 0/0 0 0



PA PC PI PCT YDS TD LG Purdue 6 3 0 .500 79 0 42 San Diego St. 8 5 1 .625 50 1 17 Oregon State 7 1 0 .143 6 0 6 Florida State 10 2 0 .200 18 0 15 Arizona State 7 4 0 .571 69 1 26 California 2 1 0 .500 9 0 9 Wash. State 16 8 0 .500 143 1 66 Oregon 19 10 0 .526 179 0 47 Washington* 31 18 0 .581 279 1 57 Stanford* 26 19 1 .731 203 1 27 UCLA* 43 28 2 .651 252 1 23 Notre Dame* 32 14 2 .438 188 0 44 TCU (Sun)* 28 17 0 .607 280 1 50 1998 (Fr.)... 235 130 6 .553 1755 7 66