The long history of success from the University of Southern California to the National Football League has been well documented, and plenty of talented prospects are looking to write a new chapter in the Trojans esteemed pathway from collegiate to professional football success.
From the second players are given four-and-five star ratings out in high school, the idea of playing in the National Football League looks like a distant light off in the distance. After strong three or four year careers in college, the possible idea of getting drafted at the next level are even smaller, but still a distinct opportunity for many top Trojans.
But as the calendar turns towards August, the final push towards an NFL career can finally reach the surface when hundreds of players go through steadfast preparations in Training Camp. Four long weeks of practices, exciting position battles, and preseason games all lead to the final 53-man roster before the NFL season opener.
Once again some of USC's best players are prepping for future NFL careers.
Terrell Thomas Given an Opportunity
The New York Giants selected Thomas in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft with the 63rd overall pick. In 2005 while at USC, he injured his right knee in a game versus Arkansas and missed the remainder of his sophomore season. Thomas recovered from this first surgery to play as USC's starting right cornerback during his junior and senior seasons in which he earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors both years. Thomas will get another shot in the NFL with his former coach.
Im so thankful for the Seattle Seahawks giving me an opportunity to continue my dream. Can't wait to hit the field with my new teammates!— Terrell Thomas (@TerrellThomas24) July 28, 2014
Kevin Graf Proving Doubters Wrong
Kevin Graf earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season before participating in the Under Armor Senior Bowl. While not being drafted this Spring, Graf was given an opportunity to compete for a roster spot on the Philadelphia Eagles. The three-year starter followed in the footsteps of his father who played on the Trojans 1972 National Championship squad and his brother, Derek, who lettered at center for USC back in 2002.
Matt Barkley Getting Better By The Day
After being thrust into the fire during the end of the Eagles first meeting against the Dallas Cowboys last season, Matt Barkley's relatively unimpressive tryout (0 TD, 4 INT's) lend him an early exit from Chip Kelly's rotation. But following a full offseason of preparation, Barkley's been much more to college form during Training Camp.
Barkley's now competing with fellow Trojan Mark Sanchez for the Eagles backup quarterback job and from what we've seen to this point, USC's more recent signal caller is getting back to his top form under the offensive guru Chip Kelly.
Thoughts from the Philadelphia Eagles: "Chip's (Kelly) told me that over and over again," Barkley told CSNPhilly.com. "I feel like I'm making the most of those opportunities out here and the ones I get in pre game, and I'll be fine. I did learn that last year, with that crazy rotation we had at quarterback, to not worry about the reps. You never know when you're going to get a chance and just be diligent and be ready not matter what your reps are."
This may be the best practice I've seen from Barkley since he got here. Chip is pure genius.— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) July 28, 2014
Devon Kennard Following Family Legacy
Despite being limited all of his junior season due to injury, Kennard responded in grand fashion last season cementing his place as a productive pass-rushing outside linebacker. While his ability to cover in space may be in question, the physicality and brute force he brings to the field will never subside.
The former Trojan has been working at the strongside linebacker position in early practices, but according to ESPN New York, Kennard's got some work at the vital middle linebacker spot and showed an ability to rapidly and effectively pick up the duties that go along with that position. Kennard certainly brought the noteworthy wood early and often.
Marqise Lee Making Moves on The Depth Chart
The Trojans highest draft pick, 33rd overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, signed his rookie contract in mid-July and has the financial security of receiving his NFL insurance policy. Still able to lead the Trojans in receptions, despite an injury-plagued junior campaign, Lee's been cleared to play and has impressed his peers to this point in Jaguars camp.
Justin Blackmon is probably gone for good from the team, the next-best option Ace Sander is out four games and Cecil Shorts III is hurt once again, leaving the depth chart aching for young players to make an immediate impact. According to our SB Nation friends at Big Cat Country, Lee's been healthy and quite active catching passes.
According to Jaguars' current starting quarterback Chad Henne:
"I just think he understands the position, how to position his body with the defensive back, (there's) just certain things he does where it's just natural to him. It's almost like a five to 10-year vet the way he is with choice routes or if he's one-on-one. If the guy flies outside, he just sits down instead of just running out underneath him. It's really good stuff. We have to keep working with him and keep encouraging him and I think he's going to do some good things."
While first-rounders R. Jay Soward (2000), Reggie Williams (2004), Matt Jones (2005) and Blackmon (2012) spent more time in the NFL's substance-abuse policy than the end zone, plus free-agent flops Jerry Porter, Laurent Robinson and Mohamed Massaquoi, the newest Jaguar however continues to develop his great off-the-field presence.
Marcus Martin Strikes Gold in Santa Clara
The Trojans All-Pac-12 center is rehabbing and has now been cleared off the PUP list to participate in Training Camp activities with the San Francisco 49ers. While Martin may not get the tutelage of Tim Drevno, the former 49ers turned USC offensive line coach, the local product could get immediate playing time at the center position.
Remain humble and keep god first you'll dreams will come true .. #GRIND— Marcus Martin (@TheRealDoubleMs) July 28, 2014
Returning Home, Well Sorta, For Trojan Seahawks Dion Bailey and John Martinez
Bailey dashed early for the National Football League, going undrafted despite having 5th-to-6th round projections, but got an opportunity to play for Pete Carroll in Seattle. The converted linebacker has practiced on special teams and at the safety position during Training Camp, battling for an opportunity in the vaunted "Legion of Boom."
Bailey also joins fellow Trojan John Martinez (OG) as players heavily recruited by Pete Carroll and company. The emotional tale between Martinez and Carroll is certainly tear worthy and speaks to the coaches ability to truly relate to his players, both on and off the field. Make sure to read the first few graphs of the Desert News' story.
The wait is over.. Today my first training camp begins.. An experience i will have for the rest of my life, God is GOOD!! #ImReady— Dion Bailey (@dbailey_18) July 24, 2014
Undrafted, Uncertain Futures For George Uko/Xavier Grimble
Following an 85-tackle, 11.5 sack, 17.5 tackles for loss career with the Trojans, George Uko signed an free-agent rookie contract with the New Orleans Saints after leaving early for the National Football League, which many speculated was due to tension over the departure of his recruiter and defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
Working to follow in the footsteps of legendary Trojan and former New Orleans DT Sedrick Ellis, Uko has seen some good reps in the Saints current 3-4 defensive scheme, where he excelled last season for Clancy Pendergast.
We all know that Xavier Grimble always had the physical tools that translated to the NFL, the biggest question was whether a lack of consistency or big-play ability would ever derail his chances at the next level. Grimble was not drafted, and signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants and could have a chance to make the 53-man roster. Battling some hamstring issues, Grimble's now listed as day-to-day.
Grimble told SB Nation's Big Blue View that: "I think I bring versatility. When I was at USC I think that was one thing that we always focused on - being an all-around tight end. It seems to be sometimes lost in the game," Grimble said. "I want to be the guy who can block and catch passes. I want to have an all-around game, that's what I work towards."
Other Notable Nuggets
USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) July 24, 2014