Whether it was during his standout career as a San Clemente Triton or the news of him signing to the Jets at the age of 21, if you are from San Clemente, there is no doubt you have heard the name Sam Darnold.
After a successful career at USC, Darnold was drafted and is currently the youngest starting quarterback in history for the NY Jets. Before being drafted to the NFL, Sam began his football career right here in San Clemente. Because his parents believed in a diversity when it came to sports, Sam was involved in basketball, baseball, soccer and even taekwondo. It was not until late in his sophomore year when Sam focused on football and started his 1st game with the SCHS Triton Football team.
Because of a broken foot, he started only two games as a junior at SCHS, leaving him with three seasons as a starting quarterback before beginning his NFL career: senior year at San Clemente and two years at USC making his success even more impressive. Clearly raw talent plays a huge part, but after having the chance to sit down with Coach Troy Kopp, the current Offensive Coordinator for SCHS, I learned more about Sam Darnold, the kind of person and player he is and what got him to where he is today.
Kopp had the opportunity to coach Sam throughout most of his high school career. As the quarterback coach at the time, Kopp worked closely with Sam year round, both on and off the field, and immediately saw something special in Sam, “Sam had the raw talent to succeed, but what made him special was his high level of character, ability to stay calm and relaxed under pressure and his ability to battle adversity. He never got too high with the highs or too low with the lows.”
Sam proved his ability to overcome adversity in his 1st career NFL start against the Detroit Lions. His 1st throw was pick-six, or an interception leading to a touchdown. According to CBS Sports, Sam knew this may happen: “I’ll be nervous for sure, I remember the first snap of the Rose Bowl or at least my first pass, I just dirted it to JuJu. I threw it at his feet. I was so nervous. But then once I got my couple throws in, I was rolling after that.”
Despite the 1st play being a pick-six, Sam Darnold being the man and player he is, did not disappoint. He went on to go 6 of 8 on his next three series, 23 total plays that generated 10 total points for the Jets and gave them the lead. The final score was Jets 48, Lions 17 making Darnold the first quarterback since Tom Brady to win his first-career start by 31 points. Hopefully this is a preview of what will be a long and successful career for San Clemente’s very own Sam Darnold.