He had skillfully guided the program through two years of NCAA sanctions, put up big numbers to add his name to the list of great Trojans quarterbacks.
Barkley just wasn’t ready to leave. He still had some unfinished business at Southern Cal.
Setting off a round of cheers at Southern Cal’s Heritage Hall, Barkley said Thursday that he’s returning for his senior season, putting off the NFL for a chance to lead the Trojans from under the cloud of NCAA sanctions to a BCS bowl.
“I am staying so I can finish what I started,” Barkley said.
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and with a game that matured over three years at Troy, Barkley was projected as a high first-round pick in the NFL draft, an enticement that had lured his predecessor, Mark Sanchez, after his junior season.
Instead of following Sanchez’s footsteps, Barkley took the route of former Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart and Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Leinart returned to Southern Cal after winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship, and led the Trojans to the 2005 BCS title game, where they lost to Texas. Luck came back this season after being the Heisman runner-up last year and took the Cardinal to the Fiesta Bowl.
Like those two, Barkley felt as though he still had goals he wanted to accomplish after leading the Trojans to a 10-2 record and a No. 5 ranking in The Associated Press poll.