As we move toward training camp for the New York Jets, we will look at stories surrounding the team for the 2017 NFL season.

The New York Jets have made many offseason moves that make the experts think that this will be a very rough season for them. One of the rewards of such a season would be to secure a high draft pick and possibly get the franchise QB that has avoided them for so long.

One of those options for the 2018 NFL draft is USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold’s ability to hit the open man goes back to high school. A two-sport star at San Clemente High School in San Clemente, California, Darnold’s basketball coach was awed by his ability. Marc Popovich stated Darnold’s basketball skills helped translate into football, being the “only guy [I’ve] ever had who could get a defensive rebound and launch a 70-foot pass on target, pretty much in the same motion, to a guy breaking out in the fast break. It was almost Wes Unseld-like.”

Despite Darnold’s penchant for basketball, football was what got him into USC. Twice he threw for a school record 5 TD in a game. When his senior season was completed, Darnold racked up nearly 3,000 passing yards, 39 TDs plus almost 800 rushing yards and 13 scores on the ground.

Darnold was handed the starting QB job at USC after four games this season when the Trojans started 1-3 and were looking for a savior. The 20-year old redshirt freshman threw for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing better than 67 percent of his passes. As impressive as these numbers were, Darnold really became a national story when he threw for 453 yards and 5 TD in a Rose Bowl win over Penn State.

Entering his sophomore season, many are anticipating Darnold coming out for the 2018 NFL draft. Scouts rave about his arm strength, accuracy and athleticism, while teammates feed off his leadership. However, according to recent new stories,  Darnold might not be as anxious to make the jump. 

Every year Nike holds the Event, a national camp that offers athletes state-of-the-art education in both Nike Football Training and position-specific football from respected position coaches, while improving each player who attends, and does all of this free of cost to attendees. Darnold attended in high school and did so this past weekend. When coaches/staffers were asked what stood out about Darnold, they each mentioned his humility and willingness to learn. He’s always asking questions and he doesn’t act like he has all of the answers. For teams that are hoping he will come out of USC after this season, it makes them think that he won’t do anything he doesn’t feel he isn’t ready for.

One other thing the New York Jets need to keep in mind. Peyton Manning was once in Darnold’s position. In 1996 Manning was entering his junior season and everyone predicted he would come out after his junior year. That season the Jets finished with their worst record in franchise history, going 1-15 and earning the number 1 selection in the NFL draft for the second straight year (they drafted Keyshawn Johnson with the number one pick in 1996). On March 5, 1997, Manning decided he would stay at Tennessee and not leave college early. The Jets eventually traded their top pick.

What gets missed in all of this is the decision Darnold has to make. Speaking with a fan of the SEC, she said the importance of players staying in school and getting a degree is the first thing college athletes should do so they have something to fall back on.  Regardless of who benefits, it sounds like Darnold has a good head on his shoulder.

How do you feel about athletes staying in school? Let us know!

Mark Kelly covers the New York Jets for You can follow him on twitter @CkmagicSports.  Looking for more Jets news and features? Like our Jets Facebook page and also follow @spot_jets on Twitter.




2-time Emmy Winner, Mark Kelly, formerly of ESPN. Cancer Survivor. Podcasts spread awareness & hope for those suffering from effects of chemo and radiation.