To Jesse Scroggins, December 5, 2009 doesn't feel like a stale memory. He can still remember the energy bursting from his legs after rushing for a touchdown followed by a 2-point conversion run. It was this game, a Pac-5 Division semifinal where his Lakewood Lancers lost to powerhouse Edison High, where Scroggins sealed his destiny. On this date, reporters and scouts scribbled Scroggins name in their books. It is only now that they can dust those books off and begin to fill in the blanks.
After redshirting a year, the USC quarterback has shown flashes of brilliance in his first Spring practicing with the Trojans. He said the year off gave him a chance to grow.
"I learned that playing isn't everything. Sitting down is a humbling experience," he said.
In his first go donning Cardinal, at USC's Spring Game, Scroggins made 6 of 15 passes for 68 yards and had one pick. While there's still an "or" next to Scroggins name on the team's latest depth chart, it seems his time to make an impact has arrived.
"I'm there to make the most of my opportunity. I'm playing like I'm a starter, no matter what part of the depth chart I'm in," he said.
Jesse Scroggins shows off his strong arm.
Confidence? Check. But cockiness? Scroggins calls it something else.
"Everybody has their own swag [on our team]. We can't explain our swag, what you see is on the field. We just bring it to the field," he said.
For the 2009 Under Armour, Super Prep and Prep Star All-American, his swag isn't a product of many hours under private coaches. Scroggins said his dad, a former receiver at Long Beach Polytechnic, and Lakewood coach Thad MacNeal, formed his quarterbacking style.
That style is a poise that isn't afraid to heave the ball downfield or buy time in the pocket. A style that enabled him to throw for nearly 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2008. In 2009, that style earned him All-Moore league's Most Valuable Player and MVP of Scout's 7on7 Passing Tournament.
As rich as USC's quarterback legacy is, the pressure on an incoming playcaller is even richer. But Scroggins seems unphased by the hype, or at least hides it well.
"My motto is if my emotions are high your intelligence is low," he said.
In his last year at Lakewood, his accuracy greatly improved. Scroggins threw for almost the same yardage as the previous year (2,395 yards) but only had five picks, five fewer than his 2008 season.
While that upward mobility has yet to translate on the Trojans' field, Scroggins remains patient.
"I'm the boss of all situations. The quarterback needs to handle all situations and not give in to pressure. It's a scary feeling being in front of those men, but [in the huddle] I look at everyone's eyes. You got to have that sense of feeling that we're all on the same page," he said.
That backup spot isn't as glamorous as the always touted starter, but former backups, little known guys like Matt Cassel or Tom Brady, relied on hard work to make up the difference. Scroggins said it's a concept that's been ingrained in him.
"My dad always said 'do you.' Keep working hard, if you work a long time it will pay off."
Paying off may be a difficult assessment given USC's expected postseason sanction, but Scroggins said he's more concerned with the future of USC football than the bowl ban or filling the shoes of former quarterbacks.
"We have a different feeling as new Trojans, we have things to bring to USC," he said. "Each person has their own ideas, [now] they're all bringing them together."
Scroggins stumbles like any typical 19-year old. He admits it's an adjustment buying his own food or making his class schedule. But if he grabs that backup quarterback spot behind starter Matt Barkley, Scroggins will have a few more eyeballs watching the steps he takes. And when he does, that all-too-fresh memory of two years ago will dry up, replaced by fresh grass, new plays and a much bigger stage.
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