SHAMELESS BEARHUNTER MOVE. CLICK PLAY ON THIS SONG. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS STYLE. CLEAR EYES, FULL HEARTS, ALL CAPS. I’M ABOUT TO GET MY COACH TAYLOR ON.
I feel like this has been a long time coming. In so many ways, we’ve both achieved just about everything we set out to do individually in the last year. You had your finest season, one that will, no doubt, place you in the highest esteem for NFL teams looking for a great leader to take their team to the next level. You are that guy. You’re Tebow without the world wanting to punch you in the face (that’s also in a universe where Tebow throws a football like a boy).
I wanted us to win the South and to mess up the Pac 12 title because despite what Larry Scott says, he is the one who made the rule that we couldn’t play in a title game. It wasn’t the NCAA.
I wanted you to win the Heisman and it looks like you’ll get to go to NYC. You deserve to win it, but college football works in mysterious ways (in that it doesn’t work at all).
I wanted you to be exactly where you are right now with just a few minor improvements that you deserve so much.
Partly because of you and mostly because I am hell with a pen, I know I have earned an insane (and surprising) amount of influence over the student body. As I mentioned, everything I write is pure, hot fire so I totally understand it. The truth is, the moment you and I started exchanging Tweets was the moment Arrogant Nation really took off to freakish levels.
When I had cancer last year, you tweeted that I was a true Trojan and a warrior. I had previously not disclosed this information because I am a warrior. I didn’t want pity. I eventually decided to share my story because I thought it could help people.
Since starting the blog, I’ve gotten to be keynote speaker at a half dozen USC events, lead the survivor lap at the USC Relay for Life to support cancer research and I even hosted the Fall Sports Rally on the court at Galen.
I ran into you at the event, not our first time meeting and without a reminder, you just said “Hey Zack, how’s it going?” and we proceeded to go out and fire up the crowd.
You are a real dude, a good dude and before I get into why I think you should stay, I wanted to make sure you (and all my readers) know that whatever you do, it doesn’t change what you’ve done and how much of our respect you deserve.
To state things plainly, you did not abandon USC when everyone else wanted to. You were the face of a coach-less, sanctioned program and you were not even of legal age to buy a drink at the 9-0. The entire world tried to bury us, but you led the team and we finish the regular season a top five team in the AP, which is the only poll I can take seriously at this point.
Succinctly, you’ve done great things here, we are so much better for having had you as the face of the team for three years and as much as I think you should stick around and finish this thing, I’ll root for whatever team drafts you (as long as it’s not the SF 49ers because I just can’t root for Harbaugh, but let’s be honest, it won’t be them).
So to be painfully clear, Arrogant Nation. This is my final and only explanation to Matt as to why he should stay. I’ve gotten hundreds of emails with statistics and emotional reasoning as to why I need to somehow force Matt to stay. This is my official stance and I hope you arrogant bastards respect it. I consider Matt a friend and will enjoy congratulating him via text after NFL games just as I enjoy it after USC games. He’s a great person and whatever he does will be a part of his dream, and who are we to judge that?
I know Matt well enough (and admittedly it’s not that well) to know it’s not about statistics for him. So this won’t be about that. It’s about something better.
Matt, here are my bullet points. No response required. The bearfighter will now speak.
ALL TIME STATISTICAL OVERLOAD OF USC FOOTBALL THROWERS
I just made clear that this would not be about statistics. And it isn’t. Factually, one more year in Troy will put you atop every significant leaderboard. I know you don’t care about that above all things. I think you know you are a special Trojan as it is. The thing is, Matt… WE want you on top of that list.
When I look at the dark clouds that surrounded the program (dark clouds I caught from my biplane and used to make water fresh enough to waterback my scotch), when I look at the way the media ignored us, when I look at the way the NCAA and Pac 12 had turned their back on us, you ignored all of it. You ignored it and our penalty for some BS sanctions was an 8-5 season and a 3rd place finish.
You ignored it this year and we’re ending in the top five, ruined the Pac 12 title game’s attempt at legitimacy (and anyone legitimately giving a shit about it) and basically flipped the entire media on its ass.
You never gave up on your school. That is the man we want atop our leaderboards. That’s the name we want all future QBs to be compared to. It’s selfish, but in a weird way, WE want your legacy to sit atop all others. We want to compare all future quarterbacks to you, instead of you being compared to Palmer and Leinart and Sanchez and
You are all the things a Trojan is meant to be. We want you to end it the clear number one so I get applauded (not arrested) when Arrogant Nation puts up a statue of you on the way into the peristyle. When my kid tells me his USC QB is the best ever I want to call him an asshole and make him watch highlights from your 2012 season and then make his girlfriend break up with him.
George Lucas. Neil Armstrong. Matt Barkley. (Zack Jerome?)
Which leads me to my next point…
NUMBER 7 MUST LIVE IN THE COLISEUM FOREVER
There’s only one way to do that and that is to win a Heisman. I am proud of everyone’s efforts (even Mr. Haden who took 10 weeks to figure out what I’d been saying since August) to get you in the national spotlight. The thing is, if they can stick Alabama and LSU in a title game, they can give Trent Richardson a Heisman. I hope when you are at the ceremony, it fires you up. I hope you realize that one is yours for the taking.
Next year, you’d sit behind a big O Line handing the ball off to Curtis and tossing bombs to Marqise and Robert. You will experience 4th quarters like I do, as a spectator. You will lead the Heisman race wire to wire.
At the end of it, we’ll have #7 forever in the Coliseum. You are the anti-Reggie Bush. So fitting you should replace his jersey under the Olympic torch.
Again, it’s about how badly we want you to be the first name people think of when they think of this school. Like Coach Kiffin said, you should get more credit for staying the course and not abandoning USC. We want you to reap every benefit from that decision. You’ve done the hard part. We just want to see you take your seat at the head table with no questions asked.
I HAVE COMMITTED TO ONE MORE YEAR OF ARROGANT NATION BLOGGING
Not that we’re a package deal or anything, but you have no idea how arrogant I can be when we’re a preseason #1. It will be gross. Kyle Negrete’s mustache will become flame-resistant and grow at twice the rate of normal human facial hair. Kiffin’s visors will be too hot to handle without thermal gloves. The world will rotate backwards.
The Ducks will be coming to USC.
Basically, this is the personal favor part. I’m your third wide receiver and I need some tight spirals to have my 1500 yard season. You are the man for the job.
YOU WANT TO PLAY AN SEC TEAM
When you go pro, you go pro. It’s over. The college chapter closes. I can hear it in your voice. You know we could have taken LSU this year. Maybe not the first game of the year, but we built this team week after week. This team is so reminiscent of 2002 that I have no doubt what next year will bring.
At the end of a trail of dead Sun Devils, Ducks, Trees, Oranges and of course Bears will be the one thing that’s eluded you so far at SC: an SEC team that thinks they can’t lose.
I cannot explain to you the satisfaction I felt both times we punked Auburn or both times we murdered Arkansas. It is so rare a Pac 12 team gets a chance to put an SEC school in its place. That’s partly due to the fact we’re the only Pac 12 team that ever beats SEC teams. Truth is, they don’t schedule us and the only way to beat them is to make it to whatever title game the BCS is pretending exists, meet up with the mandatory SEC team selected and kick them squarely in the ass.
Next season, Miami, I am in the crowd with a bunch of good looking people drinking rum runners and watching SEC fans file out of the stadium. They will say it isn’t possible. They will deny it when it happens. But the bearfighter never forgets and trust me, that will be more fun in January than having Terry Bradshaw wonder if you were ready (you will be) for the NFL.
THE NFL ISN’T FOREVER
College is your true love. I love my job. I actually do. I get to plan social media initiatives for video games. It’s the best. That said, college will always be the most hilarious, amazing time of your life.
Same goes for football. No one forgets what happens at USC. Look, you can leave now and that will make sense. If you leave next year, you have a way out. College eligibility ends. There can be the final chapter and that is that.
Look at Peyton Manning (who stayed for his senior season). The guy is arguably the greatest QB of his generation, an MVP and a Super Bowl winner. He has nothing left to prove at the pro level. He gets hurt and his entire fan base is calling for Andrew Luck, a fucking caveman, to be drafted to replace him.
The NFL is a job and it’s not personal. USC is personal. You will always be a Trojan. Few NFL players end up being one thing. In college, you are a Trojan. In the NFL you might be a Steeler, a Charger, a Bengal and a Texan.
If you came back to SC and it didn’t end in perfection, that would be fine. You’d have ridden it all the way out and there’s nothing any of us could say. You’d have seen it through from day one to day final and all that you’d get at the end was a standing ovation and a place in history.
The NFL is going to be a blast, but it’s a job. Rarely can I give you direct advice. Even if you love your job, which I do, it’s work. No one is ever going to love you more than this USC fan base will. No team will every love you more than these teammates. You may be loved your whole career, but this is pretty much what you dreamt of when you were a kid.
You are the quarterback for USC, your team is on top, you are the favorite for the Heisman and everyone just wants to see you play more.
YOU STILL OWE STANFORD AN ASS KICKING
I don’t need to further explain this one, do I? Through some magical wormhole, Stanford has gotten the best of us during your tenure. It’s time to end that.
You did that with Oregon and Washington. You put things right. It’s time to shut the farm up, let Cal thank us, then kill them like the Bears they are.
DON’T SHARE THE SPOTLIGHT
When you go pro, why on Earth do you want to go in a year the draft day talk will be about this guy?
You are a Trojan and you had a better year than this troll. Marinate on it, watch him flounder and be the number one pick next year. RGIII my ass.
YOU CAN RUIN ANOTHER UCLA COACH
The main reason for you to go to the NFL, in my mind, is that it would be hard to beat UCLA any harder than you guys did this year. That said, they will bring in some new coach who will vow to beat USC, and you will put him on his ass and probably mess with Westwood’s head for the next five years when they question him about how he rolled over against SC in year one.
You are a Trojan. You have never lost to a bear. Six bears, six kills. Let’s make it an 8 pack.
YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU’LL HAVE A GREAT TEAM AGAIN
Life is strange. Hell, I’ve had cancer twice. I guess what I am saying is that you rarely know what’s coming next. As you’ve said in your interviews, you have the chance to play for one of the great teams of the decade. It will be good without you, it is so great. With you? Historical. Everyone knows it.
Your owner in the NFL might get divorced (Dodgers) or might be cheap (Cardinals) or might buy multiple teams and not care. You might have ten head coaches. All of that will be fine and you will handle it with the same grace you’ve handled your college years, but the fact remains, the future is uncertain.
What is certain though is if you come back, you’ll have a great team, a great schedule and great fans. It’s the last time for certain you can say that (although I know I hope you end up on a great NFL team and win lots of titles, obviously).
No matter what, come your first snap next year, I can promise you Marqise Lee will be five steps ahead of his defender while Robert Woods is being triple teamed. It’ll be a year of fist pumps and arrogant game recaps.
IT’S JUST A CHANCE TO DO SOMETHING SPECIAL
I know this is a sentimental argument and I have no idea if you are wired the same way that I am. I know the NFL is a dream and going there is special in and of itself.
The thing is, I lived through the Leinart decision and I can promise you no one cared like they care about you. No one cared about Sanchez like they care about you. We all know you’ve stood by us. We want to see you atop the mountain alone with your teammates. You’ve done so much already, but it just seems like there is some more left to do.
Now that we’ve retired the You Can’t Sanction The Endzone t-shirt (thanks for quoting it at Conquest, brother), I start to think about my own legacy. I start to think about how I wonder if I’ll ever have the chance to make the USC Hall of Fame for writers for my service during sanctions. I wonder if I’ll ever get to flip a coin at half time or be formally recognized by the school.
Maybe the fact that I write things they cannot say will forever keep me on the outside looking in, but here to do my job. Like Batman only less dangerous and loved by way more girls. It’s not to say the school doesn’t look out for me, the really do, I just wonder if all the time I’ve spent doing this blog for free will ever yield an opportunity to cement myself in the school’s history.
The bearfighter is doing fine. Frankly, he wants to teach at Annenberg one day (whenever they ask). The point I am making is that you are lucky in that you have a chance to retire your jersey at USC. You have a chance to write it in stone.
That is so rare in life. Such big opportunities on both sides of the balance beam.
LET’S WRAP THIS UP LIKE A BURRITO
I’m not begging you to stay. Truthfully, I’ve seen Palmer leave and Leinart arrive. I’ve seen USC replace too many great players in these ten or so years to feel the need to beg anyone to do anything, certainly not a guy who injected life back into the team and assured we’ll continue to prosper when that possibility was called into question.
I’m just saying we’ve ridden the wave this far. You will be favored to win everything. You will get to face an SEC team. You will have a chance to literally prove that sanctions meant nothing. You can rewrite the history books where people try to explain what the NCAA’s harshest penalties in decades even accomplished.
You spit in Larry Scott’s face. You made Pat Haden stand up for USC and print t-shirts that slapped Larry in the face. You have changed a culture. You’ve made my job easy (well, easy for a genius bearfighter who is hell with a pen).
I just would love to see what next year looked like with #7 coming out of the tunnel.
That said, buddy. If you go, we have your back. In fact, if you go pro, I’ll post a letter from you to Arrogant Nation on this blog if you want and everyone will have your back.
This isn’t a case of stay or we’ll hate you. This is a case of another guy who went to USC and has great options for his career. Sanctions made you have to grow up real fast. I’m saying, take the year off from the noise. Spend time with your friends who probably needed all four years to graduate.
And then, come January, change college football forever.
It’s been a pleasure writing about you, it’s been great getting to know you and in the end, it’ll be great to see what you decide. Just know, either way, Arrogant Nation is going to stand up and cheer for you. We’re going to support you no matter what.
In the end, that might be the best reason to stay.
Cheers and Thanks,
The Bearfighter and Arrogant Nation