When George Farmer was first recruited to campus, the expectation was that he would follow in the likes of high school teammates Robert Woods and Marqise Lee as elite-level playmakers at the college football level.
After watching both Woods and Lee depart for the National Football League, the third man in the carousel, following an injury-plagued redshirt sophomore season, is embracing the opportunity to start new in the Trojans' fast-paced offense.
"My spirits are high. I've always grown up not to mope about everything and to not give up," Farmer said about working his way back in the Trojans depth chart in the suddenly-crowded wide receiver position that features 14 scholarship options.
In his career, Farmer has recorded 5 catches for 49 yards (9.8 avg.), 5 carries for 15 yards (3.0 avg.), 3 kickoff returns for 59 yards (19.7 avg.) and 2 tackles. Now slotted as one of the Trojans' key cogs on the outside, opposite Nelson Agholor, Farmer feels that the increase in production across the board will only benefit the entire pass-catching corps.
Snatching a sharp bullet pass over the middle on a slant route, Farmer burst up the seam for a nice gain at Monday's opening practice of fall camp. While watching him run rep after rep without the assistance of that once crippling knee brace, weighing expectations of failed seasons past along with the risk of future injury concerns has made for one tough plate to balance heading into the season.
While both Robert Woods and Marqise Lee have blossomed at USC over the last few years, George Farmer feels his career path still needs to be written and is far from ending any time soon.
"Everybody's destiny is different. I just try to focus on what I have to do and be straight forward and don't worry about what's going on in the past," Farmer added.
That confidence continues to rise, especially after running an unofficial 4.3 40-yard-dash during the final evaluation period of spring football. Farmer said he feels faster than ever heading into fall camp and believes that added confidence will only help keep him going.
"It was kind of heartwarming knowing I was back up to speed and all that," he said.
But that long, strenuous process back from an ACL injury was not simple. It took a lot of mental and intestinal fortitude, including some helpful words from former USC wideout Patrick Turner, who teamed up with Farmer back in a summer school spanish class while Turner returned to complete his degree.
"I have a lot of guys in my corner, lot of older guys (like Turner) that have passed through here and have struggled with ACL injuries," George Farmer said. "And of course my teammates taking me under their wing, telling me everything's gonna be alright."
While some of these conversations took place in basic spanish, the deeper connection of getting back to playing fast on the football field was clear right from the onset. Taking wisdom from Turner, along with current teammate Tre Madden, who is returning from a mid-season hamstring injury, Farmer feels confident about his overall game.
But one of the biggest mentors in this process has been the man feeding his wisdom, and sharp passes during positional drills, his position coach Tee Martin. "He's been a good role model and a good mentor throughout this whole process," Farmer said. "He's kept my head pretty screwed on as far as the rehab and all that going on."
Tee Martin, a national-championship-winning quarterback in his own right, knows a thing or two about setting up great weapons to succeed and his non-stop influential guidance was vital to getting Farmer's mind and body back in playing shape.
"He really took me under his wing, told me that 'everything's gonna be alright' and stuff like that. And he's coached a couple guys coming off ACL's, so I've kind of been in his corner talking about what I should do," Farmer added.
The redshirt junior has taken a firm liking to the Trojans' fast-paced offense, mostly because it keeps the "energy up during practice" and keeps him from cramping up in between plays. But now George Farmer looks forward to getting back out there day-in and day-out to compete and make an impact with his pass-catching teammates.
"We have a good group of talented guys out there," Farmer said. "If one of us goes down its great to know that we have a good group of guys ready to come up and make plays. They are all brothers to me and I look forward to playing out there with all of them."
In order to call the comeback truly complete, Farmer said he needs to refine the fundamentals in his route running, which slacked as a result of losing some of his sharp coordination following the ACL injury.
Feeling better than ever in most aspects of his game, George Farmer wants to get back to doing what he's always done best -- playing fast and playing free.