Quarterback Matt Barkley is heading back to USC

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Matt Barkley’s dream of pursuing the NFL has been put on hold.

Playing as the starting quarterback of UFC for three years, which included a junior season that set tremendous records, Barkley had quickly shot up to the expected top-10 pick in the NFL April draft.

The quarterback had remained poised since June 2010, though, when the Trojans met with NCAA sanctions, among which was a two-year bowl ban.

Apparently, the pull of helping lead USC through a season eligible for football with what is expected to be a national title contender led Barkley to shelve his NFL dreams temporarily: he announced in a press conference on Thursday, with much enthusiasm, that he was coming back to USC.

He explained that he was staying because he wanted to finish what he started.

This decision is seen to give the Trojans a shot at a top-five position next season, with the former star of Santa Ana Mater Dei High being one of the Heisman Trophy front-runners. Heisman balloting had Barkley finishing sixth this season.

Lane Kiffin, USC Coach, upon learning of the decision Wednesday evening when he visited Barkley’s Newport Beach home, described it as a special day.

Athletic Director Pat Haden also agreed this was a great day for USC, and for college football on the overall.

This news conference with Barkley was the third time in recent years wherein a Trojan quarterback announced a decision about coming back or moving on to the pros.

Back in 2005, Matt Leinart announced in the very same Heritage Hall his decision of returning to USC, eliciting cheers among the packed audience. In 2009, Mark Sanchez declared that he would move into the NFL draft, complete with an awkward moment with Pete Carroll, former Trojans coach, who announced that he disagreed with Sanchez’s decision.

This Thursday’s press conference at least ended on a happy note, with Carroll, who was now coaching the Seattle Seahawks, cheering Barkley’s decision over the distance.

Carroll had started Barkley as a freshman, and in a phone interview, said that he thought it had been “awesome.”

He added that he would have been surprised if the decision had gone the other way, as he believed Barkley saw the experience differently compared to the other guys.

“He knows he’s going to play in the NFL,” he said, appreciating how the quarterback liked playing college football, too.

The 21-year-old quarterback was the last of a line of four prominent juniors in USC set to give an announcement about their future.

Defensive end Nicky Perry and left tackle Matt Kalil have decided to turn pro, while safety T.J. McDonald gave his decision on Wednesday of returning for his senior year.

Barkley’s decision came about after numerous consultations with coaches, former football players, personnel and agents with the NFL, as long as his close friends and family.

His father confirmed that Barkley understood what he was forgoing in his decision, and his mother conceded that she had been prepared for her son to head to the NFL.

Apparently, Barkley followed advice from plenty of people who told him to follow his heart, and follow his heart he did.

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