Carson Palmer - USC

The star quarterbacks are coming on - Conversation with Carson Palmer and the top 20 quarterbacks
By Pete Fiutak

No one ever roots for Goliath. We're so trained to cheer for the underdog and for the guy that comes out of nowhere to make something of himself that we forget that sometimes, the guys who have everything going for them have to fight through some of the same adversity.

USC QB Carson Palmer was one of the nation's top prep players and came to the Land of Troy certain to be a yearly All-American and Heisman candidate. He had the size, the arm, the smarts and the athleticism to be the prototype quarterback to return the Trojans to glory. After struggling over the first three years of his career dealing with coaching changes and getting beaten behind an average offensive line, his legacy looked like it'd be full of unfulfilled promise. 

Then this season, everything started to kick in for Palmer. The receivers were healthy and he had stability in the coaching staff. The running game got healthy as Sultan McCullough and Justin Fargas started forcing teams to concentrate on the run. Freshman WR Mike Williams has turned out to be one of the nation's best receivers right off the bat. Palmer has lived up to his promise and is now in the thick of the Heisman hunt. Will he win the award? Probably not, but he can worry about that next year when he's counting his millions as one of the top ten picks in the draft.

Done Nov. 4
CFN: The USC sports info department has been doing a great job of promoting you over the last few weeks and I've seen and heard you everywhere. This has to be extremely exhausting. 

Carson Palmer:
Yeah it is. Definitively. The last few weeks have been really hectic, but you can't complain too much cause it's all good attention and it's good that it's so positive.

CFN: What exactly has happened that's made such a difference over the last two weeks?

CP: Execution. Everyone's starting figure things out and everyone's starting to feel really comfortable with the offense and the plays. We're comfortable with playing with each other and what everyone's supposed to do, so it's all starting to work. 

CFN: One of the hot topics in college football has been Maurice Clarett and if a freshman can play in the NFL. You started as a freshman. Can you even imagine back then the thought of turning pro considering where you're at now as a senior? 

CP: It's a whole different ball game. As a freshman, you really can't understand everything that's going on. Yeah, you can play the game, but there's so much more happening. You don't really realize what it means to the people around you and the university. Once you've been around a school for five years playing college football, playing against the same teams and playing in all the different stadiums, you realize that it's completely different as a senior as opposed to when you first start out. You have no idea as a freshman.

CFN: With that said, is (freshman WR) Mike Williams getting good enough to turn pro?

CP: No. Definitely not. I can't even imagine a freshman being that good. Mike is definitely a good player and has the skills, but it's a maturity thing. It's too much to ask a young player to handle. You have to be far ahead of other people your age to even think about making that jump.

CFN: Are you shocked at how fast he's been able to make an impact?

CP: Definitely. When he first got here I didn't even know if he was going to be able to compete for playing time or redshirt. He really stepped up and worked hard for everything he's got. I just hope he can keep playing this way.

CFN: Every team from Miami on down has a lull in the season and can't maintain total intensity over a long season. With your schedule, you can't do that. As one of the veteran leaders of this team, is there anything you do to try and keep the team jacked up every week?

CP: It's tough. The Pac 10 is so tough and so competitive every week that there's really not a team you can look past. Everyone can beat anyone. Fortunately, we have a very mature team with a lot of seniors, so everyone understands that. We've been through some lulls in the past and lost those games, so everyone understands how critical it is each week to stay focused. Not a whole lot needs to be said on this team. 

CFN: Coming to USC you had all the hype in the world and all the hype of being the can't miss prospect. With all the adversity and pressure you've had to deal with, what advice would you have for a hot shot prep player coming into a program expected to be the be all player?

CP: One of the most difficult things is having to deal with the adversity. When everything is going well, it's not all that hard. Everyone goes through some struggles and everyone is going to have problems living up to all the expectations at times. There's a point in everyone's career where they're not going to be playing as well as they should be. You just have to keep you confidence and not hang your head and realize that you're going to figure it out and that you're going to get better and that you're going to learn. Learn from all your mistakes and don't take them for granted cause the mistakes can turn into something big time. If you keep having the same problems in games and you don't learn from them, then they're going to keep happening over and over again and the pressure will only get greater and things will only be that much tougher.

CFN: Everyone's been raving about the job that Pete Carroll has done. With his NFL background, has he given you any advice about what you need to do to become an NFL quarterback?

CP: He works almost all with the defense so he doesn't really deal with me or the offense all that much, but he's into the game so much mentally that he has so many advantages in preparation for practices and preparation for games that he's great at keeping everyone focused. He hasn't really given me any pointers on technique or anything, but he's great at showing me how to keep my mental focus.

CFN: All quarterbacks say they have to work on their overall game, but after years of starting and learning, is there any one specific thing that you think you have to improve on?

CP: There isn't one thing. I wish there was. There are so many areas that I need to get better in from decision making to technique to making the reads quicker, I wish I could narrow it down. I just need to keep getting better everywhere and there are too many things I'd like to get better at.

CFN: (note: I did this interview before the Boston College game) As hotly recruited as you were by Notre Dame and as close as you came to going there, with the success the Irish are having this year, have you for a split second thought about how your life might be different had you gone to South Bend?

CP: Not at all. They've had a lot of success this year, but they also struggled over the past few years like we've struggled. I couldn't be happier at any other place than I am here at USC. I've never looked back on my decision to come here cause it's been so great.

CFN: Is there a part of you that's rooting for the Irish to do well so they can come into the game with you with everything on the line?

CP: I'm the biggest Notre Dame fan there is. I was so excited when they beat Florida State and I looked at their schedule today and they play Navy and some other average teams so they should go undefeated before they come here. I'd love that so the game is just that much bigger.

CFN: I don't know ... Boston College is going to be really nasty this weekend.

CP: Is that really who they have? I hope they're still undefeated when they play us.

CFN: Being the star quarterback of USC, do you get any starstruck moments with famous alumni or stars who come to games or want to meet you?

CP: Not really. I wish! I saw (Laker owner) Jerry Buss at one of our games, but that's it.

CFN: Are you a Laker fan?

CP: I'm a bandwagon fan. I jumped on that bandwagon a couple of years ago and now I'm the biggest Anaheim Angel fan there is. It's very convenient.

CFN: Kobe or Shaq.

CP: Shaq. Definitely. I'm more of a Shaq guy.

CFN: I have a running barroom debate with some friends of mine that if I could be a star college athlete anywhere, I'd want to be the starting quarterback for USC or UCLA. They always argue that they'd rather play for Miami or Florida State, but for the coeds, the weather, the media market and the overall experience, I'd rather play in L.A. Help me out with my fight. What are the main perks?

CP: The media attention. It's only good when your winning, but when you're winning, it's great. When you're losing around here, you're a complete bum. With the media and the hype around L.A., it doesn't even compare to playing at most colleges that aren't in such a major area. A place like Washington State doesn't have the same media attention that you can get here when you're winning. When you're losing, it's hard but when you're winning, it's definitely a main perk.

CFN: Do you think the L.A. media has been fair to you?

CP: It comes with the territory. When you're playing well, they say you're playing a lot better than you actually are, but when you're playing poorly, they say you're worse than you actually might be. You have to understand that when you come to USC. When you sign that letter of intent, you have to know that that's part of the deal.

CFN: What's been the best part about going to USC?

CP: For me, I'd have to say this whole year. This year has been so much fun. I've been here for five years and have played with so many of these seniors. I've been able to build such great relationships and friendships with these guys and I wouldn't trade that away for the world. Going through this season with the success that we're having has been so much fun.

CFN: Doing anything fun for Halloween?

CP: Practice. That's it. Not a whole bunch of fun.