Sam Darnold, measuring in at 6’4” and 210 pounds, is one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the nation. The seventeen year old is the 5th ranked pocket passer in the ESPN 300, and has recently received offers from college football powerhouses such as Oregon, USC, Tennessee, Utah, Duke, and Northwestern. He just returned from Beaverton, Oregon, where he spent a week training at the Elite 11 national finals, competing amongst the best high school quarterbacks in the country. As a student at San Clemente High School, Darnold started his career participating in football as well as baseball and basketball. His talents in football have gained him the recognition most recently, but he has never been an average competitor in any sport that he has played. After giving up baseball going into his sophomore year, Sam earned the honor of All-League in football, and Sea View League MVP in basketball, which was a very humbling experience for the young athlete.
While Darnold continues to improve and impress people with his ability to play sports, I have never expected less from him. The statistics and rankings might categorize or define the young prodigy to his recruiters and his fans, but according to me he will always just be family. As Sam’s older sister, I am able to experience this journey with him and do my best to support him through the ups and downs. I am currently playing Division I volleyball, so we are able relate to each other regarding the big college decision that he has made. These accomplishments that have come from his athletic talents are no surprise to me because I have always witnessed the time and effort that Sam has put into each sport, as well as his academics.
As a young boy he was able to name almost every starting lineup for all MLB, NBA, and NFL teams. Hours were spent in the backyard mimicking the moves of his favorite athletes, practicing his preferred shots or plays. It became clear that his passion for sports would never wither, only grow. Sam never failed to play on the All-Star team for his age group. While most kids were watching cartoons, Sam would watch SportsCenter on ESPN. Sam was always the one to break the piñata at birthday parties, and nearly all of the pictures from his childhood show him holding a ball or a bat. His infatuation with competition is continually increasing, and he chooses every day to dedicate himself to his current sport.
This past week, Sam decided to further develop his talent at the University of Southern California. Darnold explains why he made this decision among all of the prestigious universities that he had to choose from. “Looking at post-grad opportunities, USC seemed like the most logical choice. I would love to live in Southern California for the rest of my life, if I could, and the degree and connections I could make at USC would allow me to do that,” explains the future Trojan.
I sat down with Sam to ask him a few questions about what he has been through these past few months and his hopes for the future. It is inspiring to watch his face light up when he talks about the sport he loves. When I asked Sam about the hardest decision he has had to make regarding sports, he replied, “This one.” A man of few words, I had to ask him to elaborate for me. He continued, “Where I will attend college for the next four or five years has been the most important and difficult decision I’ve had to make so far.” I then asked what he would suggest to someone who is going through a situation similar to his. “Be honest with yourself. Don’t ignore the little signs of why you might or might not want to go to the school that you’re looking at.” My brother has a very level head, but I know as well as anyone that he gets frustrated and overwhelmed with the stress that his life demands of him. I asked him how he manages to balance his sports, school, and a social life. “I don’t,” he giggles. “One of them always seems to be lacking no matter how hard I try to balance it.” Although from the outside, Sam’s life seems to be perfectly aligned, there are constant factors that he admits sometimes throw him slightly off track. High school students are known to face adversity, and Sam’s positive outlook, along with the main supporters that he has in his life, have given him the strength to become the athlete and young man that he is still growing up to be.
With all of Sam’s recent success, there is still a lot of anticipation toward what he will accomplish during his senior year. He has high hopes and big dreams for these upcoming football and basketball seasons. Meanwhile the rest of us cannot help looking beyond high school, toward these years to come, and what he will make of himself.