Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Long Beach Times: Breakaway Threat

Long Beach Poly's DeSean Jackson almost stayed home to play for USC, but Trojans lost him because he felt coaches betrayed a confidence. Now he stars for rival Cal.

By Gary Klein, Times Staff Writer

He could have been a Trojan. He wanted to be a Trojan. He was only a signature away from becoming a Trojan. But shortly after DeSean Jackson awoke on Feb. 2, 2005, the first day high school football players could sign national letters of intent that year, someone called and told the Long Beach Poly High star that there were reports he already was a USC Trojan. As the day wore on, the speedy receiver and kick returner became convinced that USC coaches had betrayed what he felt was an agreement to keep his decision a secret. That night, the player who would become one of college football's most electrifying performers announced on television that he would attend California. "Just one of those last-minute decisions," Jackson said Monday in a telephone interview. "I kind of felt like they took it for granted that they had me." On Saturday, fourth-ranked USC will play No. 17 Cal at the Coliseum for the championship of the Pacific 10 Conference. USC is third in the Bowl Championship Series standings and has a shot at its third consecutive BCS title game appearance.  Cal, meanwhile, can spoil the Trojans' hopes and earn its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1959. The Golden Bears are positioned to do so in part because they defeated the Trojans on the recruiting front for Jackson, who is expected to a be front-runner for the Heisman Trophy next season.

"It was definitely one of our biggest recruiting victories, because it doesn't happen with us all the time with USC," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said recently. Jackson, a 6-foot, 166-pound sophomore, has caught nine touchdown passes, many from long range, and also has returned four punts for touchdowns. USC Coach Pete Carroll sees many similarities between 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and the thrill-a-minute Jackson.

"He had spots [last season] when he made some plays but he's really torn it up this year," Carroll said. "Gosh, they've thrown to him deep so many times and the punt returns alone are awesome. "It doesn't surprise me at all. I thought he was a great player, a really, really talented guy."

Jackson welcomes comparisons to Bush. "It's just too bad I'm not playing for SC because if I was playing for SC then it probably would be a different thing," he said. "I'm the closest thing to Reggie Bush. But I kind of don't like to follow after too many people. I just try to be myself." Ask Jackson what attracted him to Cal and he cites the opportunity to mature away from home in Northern California and also to play as a freshman.  "I've been in L.A. all my life and SC is something I've always been around," he said. "A lot of people from Poly always went to SC. I just wanted to change it up a little bit. Do something different." But Jackson said he had given USC a verbal commitment. "We talked it out for an agreement for us to be under the table because I feel I wanted to keep my other options open and available too," he said. On signing day, Jackson opted for Cal.

Read the entire article here.

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