He's Back! Matt Leinart Will Return To USC For Senior Season

Jan. 14, 2005

USC quarterback Matt Leinart on returning for his senior season

'I want to thank everyone for coming out here and supporting me through this. Thank you for being patient with my decision. It's been a difficult one. First, I want to thank my dad and all of my family, Coach Carroll and everyone who has helped me through this process. The most important thing I have learned about this week is the view of what is best for myself and my family and gather information. Ultimately, I have to do what's going to make me happy. Furthermore, I would like to announce that I'm coming back for my senior season (crowd cheering). It was the toughest decision of my life. I realized the opportunity to support my family by going to the NFL early, but to me, I think college football and this whole atmosphere of being here with my friends and teammates that I have been with for four years is ultimately more satisfying and will make me happier than any amount of money could make someone happy. I feel confident and excited about the opportunity of coming back to play another year here. Being in college is the best time of my life. I have had the most fun being here at USC for four years than I have ever had. I plan on being back here next year and hopefully to be a leader again and another national championship.'

(on when he made the decision)

'I made it at the end. Like I said at the beginning, it's really been back and forth just to get all the information I gathered from numerous amount of people, but ultimately, it came down to just being here. It came down to what I thought what was best for me and my family...to be with my team. There is something special going on right now that I didn't want to give up.'

(on potential for injuries next year)

'Obviously, I took that into consideration. I don't play scared, I play to win. I play to win football games. Never have I played scared in my life. I can be hurt tomorrow. I realize there is a small risk I'm taking, but it doesn't factor into my head. Once I start practicing, it won't be a factor. Things happen for a reason.'

(on any advice from current NFL players)

'I talked to some players, a lot of different people that had information. The great thing about it was they gave me information from both sides, the pros and cons. The hardest part was just gathering information because it wasn't getting me anywhere. It was based on what I wanted and obviously, I wanted to come back. Everyone has been helpful in giving me advice. I learned a lot.'

(on information about possible placement in the NFL draft)

'I didn't have contact with anyone. You can read all you want about where I would have gone, mock drafts and all of that stuff. It really doesn't matter because it's a lot of talk. The information you get is from coaches and general managers, but like I said, I got enough information about where I could go. It's really about performing at the combine and coaches seeing me and if they like me or not. These last few years have been great. Winning the Orange Bowl and Heisman Trophy is great, but it really doesn't mean much to me. It means a lot to me, but it's not the most important thing. I have a good idea where I would have ended up. I think my decision was more important than that.'

(on possible injuries and decision)

'I made the decision and I'm not looking back.'

(on motivation for next year after winning the Heisman and national championship)

'Winning. There's a lot that drives me. The motivation to come back to work harder and to be with my teammates. That says enough for me. It may not for others, but for me, that's enough. Being a part of the USC family...there is nothing like it. This is the greatest time of my life, being in L.A...close to home. I think that alone is enough motivation for me to come back.'

(on any ideas about draft selection)

'I really don't know. It is obvious that I'm guessing it's in the first round. You don't really know until draft day. To me, I think one more year is going to help me and that's why I made this decision. I wasn't worried about where I was going to go.'

(on walking away from millions of dollars)

'I get $950 a month now (crowd laughing). The money is not important to me. I realize the opportunity to leave. I realize everything. Nothing is guaranteed. There is a lot of talk that I would have to go out there and show what I can do. Obviously, I'm confident in what I can do.'

USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu on declaring for the NFL draft

'It is a choice that was in my heart. I'm very excited to announce it. I want to thank the coaches for giving me a chance to further my education while completing my dream of playing Division I football. It's been a dream. I would like to thank Coach Carroll for taking a chance on a kid from the University of Maine and making my dream come true. I want to thank all the coaches and staff for promoting me as a player.'

USC punter Tom Malone on returning for his senior season

'First of all, I want to thank my coaches and parents. It's a decision that was tough for me, but I'm in a position right now where I don't have any grief about being in this position. It's been a dream for everyone to be able to play on Sundays and to be able to be drafted and help out my family. After thinking about it, I'm excited to come back for another year at USC. It's too hard to leave right now with everything we have going on right now. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of what we have here. It's been amazing. Nowhere else could you have a press conference or a website about him (crowd laughing) to be up for the Heisman or to have fans like the Herd. There's nothing better for me and I don't want to be anywhere else. I'm excited about the future.'

USC head football coach Pete Carroll

'Okay, so I'm smiling (laughter). I have a little voice thing going here, but let me just say this...this is a process that we work very hard to help our players come to the conclusion that they have come to. We try to give them the information and support them in all ways. We didn't hit on all cylinders like we would have liked to because we are going to miss Lofa Tatupu. He has been a fantastic contributor to this program. He's been a great player for us and great leader. He has meant a lot to his teammates and this coaching staff. It's important to his family that he had this opportunity to maximize to show that he could be at this level. He's very determined to go on. Whether I agree with the decision or not doesn't matter, I support the heck out of our guys. He's a Trojan family member forever and we wish him the very best and hope it will work out awesome for him. For Tom Malone to say he is coming back and finishing, he has just about graduated right now, this is a choice he made because he loves being at USC. He knows he has been a part of this championship run we have been together and he has been a lethal weapon for us. To have that factor of our team come back again just adds another element that can make us very difficult to beat next year. We are thrilled to have Tom back and there isn't anyone that likes to see that ball fly more than I do. For the last guy here, this has been a very difficult time for Matt going through this process. I feel that we have done all that we could have done to give him this information. We tried to show both sides of it...coming out is a good decision or staying is a good decision. Matt also sees, and he is very clear about it, he never wavered from the fact that he wanted to come back. He has always known that he wanted to play for his teammates, he's known he wanted to stay at USC. He just needed to weigh out the other alternative and figure that thing out and see what it was all about. There was a lot of pressure and conversation. There was a lot of opinions that he was going to come out, but he you heard what he said. He wants to play with his teammates. There was no amount of money that could take that away from him and I think that's an extraordinary statement that he makes. I think this experience these young men have...this is the time of their life. I would hate for them to cut it short and miss out on any opportunity. I think these guys realize what they have given up. In the days and months that follow, a lot of people will have a chance to listen to Matt and Tom on why they stayed in school to finish their education on time and get this thing knocked out. We are very proud that Matt and Tom are coming back. We are going to wish the best for Lofa. Only at USC could you get this kind of response. It's awesome. We are grateful to see this.'

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