The chaos and excitement that came with an epic 2017 National Signing Day for the USC Trojans where USC fans saw some of the Nation's top high school athletes chose to play for Clay Helton in sunny Los Angeles has subsided. A few days later Helton and quarterback Sam Darnold found themselves literally and figuratively far, far away in freezing Columbus, Ohio on a Saturday night in February as Sam Darnold was to be awarded the Archie Griffin Award by the Touchdown Club of Columbus.
The Touchdown Club of Columbus held their 62nd Annual Award Ceremony on Saturday February 4th in the Arena District in Downton Columbus, Ohio. The event was a star-studded affair which featured some of the greatest college football players and coaches from around the country. Notably Clemson Tigers star Ben Boulware was on hand as was Penn State Nittany Lions Head Coach James Franklin, Colorado Buffaloes running back Phillip Lindsay, Florida State Seminoles QB Deondre Francois, and Ohio State Buckeyes RB Mike Weber along with many more.
Most importantly USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton and quarterback Sam Darnold were on hand as Darnold was the recipient of the Archie Griffin Award. The Archie Griffin Award is given to the nation's best college football player but it has the unique distinction of selecting the recipient after all of the College football Bowl Games have concluded.
Shortly before 8 eastern the event started with with an impressive highlight package of all of the award recipients. National Champion Ben Boulware was the first award recipient. Penn State Coach James Franklin won National Coach of the Year honors and during his acceptance speech he gave a shout out to Helton and Darnold for the incredible Rose Bowl Game they coached. This may very well have been the first time Helton and Franklin have been in the same room since that game.
Finally it was time for Darnold to take the stage. Head Coach Clay Helton introduced Darnold pointing out that Darnold was just the 13th man in USC history to hit the trifecta which is when the Trojans defeat Notre Dame, UCLA, and win the Rose Bowl. Helton went on to say that Darnold was the pride of of USC and the very definition of the USC Motto “Fight On”
Darnold is not the first USC quarterback to win the Archie Griffin award, Trojans QB Matt Leinart won the award in 2003 and 2004. Darnold is, however, the first Freshman to receive the Award since it was created in 1999. Michael Vick was the first to win the award and other college football legends have gone to receive the honor including Andrew Luck, Ezekiel Elliot, Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston, and Deshaun Watson.
Darnold threw for over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns in the air with another 2 rushing touchdowns. Darnold went 9-1 as the Trojans starting qb and is largely credited with the Trojans turnaround in 2016 that saw them go from a rocky 1-3 start to a 10-3 finish and a victory in the Rose Bowl. If Darnold and the Trojans continue to progress and improve this could be the first of many awards for Darnold.