Barkley Right On Track
By Matt Walks
USC welcomes No. 6 Stanford to the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night, and what are Trojans junior quarterback Matt Barkley and Dan Patrick talking about during Tuesday's broadcast of "The Dan Patrick Show"?
One might guess Stanford's blitz packages, maybe, or the importance of Barkley's relationship with talented sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods.
Nope. They were talking Red Hot Chili Peppers.
In fact, Patrick's interview with Barkley touched on just about everything except how the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Newport Beach, Calif., native is preparing for his biggest game of the year so far. From riffing on head coach Lane Kiffin's temper to Will Ferrell being a fan of the program, Barkley was his typical laid-back self, even breaking out his guitar to play a live rendition of Jason Mraz' "I'm Yours."
Those unfamiliar with Barkley might mistake his California cool for laziness, or even a lack of focus, but that would be a dangerous thing to do for someone who, even as a teenager, had high career goals.
"At one point, I wanted to be a pediatrician," Barkley said. "Then I wanted to be a computer programmer, and at one point I wanted to be a musician. A little all over the place, but now I'm on my track."
That track leads straight from the heart of Southern California, where as a 14-year-old freshman Barkley started varsity for Santa Ana's football factory Mater Dei. Heavily recruited by nearly every college football conference in the country, Barkley picked USC a year earlier than he had to, staying close to family and friends and following in Mater Dei-alum Matt Leinart's footsteps.
Barkley won the Trojans starting quarterback role at the start of his freshman year, and he's never relinquished it. Although he's had to deal with both coaching changes and NCAA sanctions, Barkley has remained composed and confident and began his third year by setting a school-record for completions with 34 in this year's season-opener against Minnesota and threw for a career-high 468 yards against Arizona in October.
In addition to being at the helm of one of the nation's highest-profile football programs, Barkley stays busy off the field.
He helped his parents run Monarchs for Marines, a program through Mater Dei that has raised more than $100,000 for families of wounded and fallen Marines. Over Christmas break in 2008, he worked at an orphanage in South Africa, and in the past he's helped build homes for the impoverished in Mexico.
A devout Christian, Barkley traveled with his family to Nigeria for missionary work after the Trojans' wrapped up their season. As of yet, Barkley has no plans for this coming offseason but acknowledges something may come up down the road.
"If the opportunity rises, we'll jump on it right away, but as of now my focus is on the season and finishing it strong," Barkley said. "If something happens though, we'll definitely use that opportunity."
In fact, it's nearly impossible to talk about Barkley's off-the-field accomplishments without mentioning his faith — in his words, one of his biggest strengths as a football player.
"I think (my faith) gives me a greater understanding in a lot of different areas," Barkley said. "With all of the junk that's been going on around USC lately, I think my faith has been able to keep me even-keeled, to know that I'm here for a reason and to not get downtrodden or phased by all the stuff in the world or things I can't control."
The next big decision — whether or not to go in the NFL Draft one year early — is something he can control. So far Barkley has stayed quiet on his intentions, only saying that it will be both a business and a family decision. But again, Barkley says his faith will "definitely be a factor" in helping him know what choice to make.
And although Barkley shies away from talk of going pro, he has thought about life after USC.
"Since I'm a communications major, maybe (I'll) even, you know, take on a role in front of the camera after football. Who knows what will happen?"
Laid-back Barkley as an analyst?
"You never know," Barkley laughed.
The Trojans take on Heisman Trophy-frontrunner Andrew Luck and the undefeated Cardinal on Saturday. Kick off is set for 5 p.m.
Photo by Darryl Oumi