CAREER: He is fourth on USC's career completions (524), passing yardage (6,878) and total offense (6,772) charts. He already has thrown 71 touchdowns (second most in USC history behind Carson Palmer's 72) in just 26 career starts, with at least 1 TD in all but 1 game he has started (the first 24) and at least 2 TDs in all but 3 games (he had a string of at least 2 TDs in 15 consecutive games). He also has thrown at least 3 TDs 13 times (and at least 4 TDs 7 times, including 5 TDs on 3 occasions). He is averaging a TD pass every 11.5 career attempts. His career passing efficiency rating of 160.5 is fifth on the all-time NCAA chart. During USC's current 22-game winning streak, he has thrown 63 TDs and just 9 interceptions (his career TD/interception ratio is 71/15). His 71 career TD passes-already sixth on the Pac-10 career ladder-are the most ever in back-to-back seasons by a Pac-10 quarterback. His 64.3% career passing percentage is just below USC's career record of 64.6% set by Rob Johnson (1991-94). His 1.84% career interception rate is lower than the USC and Pac-10 career record of 1.95% set by Brad Otton (1994-96). USC is 25-1 when Leinart starts (his 96.2% winning percentage is the highest of any USC quarterback ever and is the second-best mark in NCAA history, minimum 25 starts, behind Toledo's Chuck Ealey, who was 35-0). He was just the third quarterback in the last 30 years to lead his team to back-to-back national championships. In his 2 starts against Notre Dame (2003 and 2004), he has completed 73.5% of his passes (50-of-68) for 751 yards and 9 TDs.
2005: Heisman Trophy-winning Leinart, the left-handed record-setting 2-time All-American quarterback, should again be America's top player as he starts for his third season as a senior in 2005. He will attempt to be just the second player ever to win a second Heisman and also is in line for the Davey O'Brien and Unitas Awards, as well as his third season as an All-American. He is on the 2005 Maxwell Award watch list. He had minor outpatient surgery to address tendonitis in his left (throwing) elbow in late January of 2005, which sidelined him in 2005 spring practice. He was named to the prestigious 2005 Playboy Pre-Season All-American team for the second consecutive year.
2004: Leinart started for his second season at quarterback as a junior in 2004. Overall in 2004, he completed 269-of-412 passes (65.3%) for 3,322 yards and 33 TDs with just 6 interceptions, plus he rushed for 3 TDs. He was seventh nationally in passing efficiency (156.5, first in Pac-10) and 25th in total offense (252.2, third in Pac-10). His 33 TD passes in 2004 were second on the USC season list, his 269 completions were third, and his 3,322 passing yards and 3,278 yards of total offense were fourth (the TD passes was tied for third on the Pac-10 list). His statistics were comparable or better in 2004 than they were in 2003, and he did it without 2003's top 2 pass catchers-WRs Mike Williams and Keary Colbert-and behind a rebuilt offensive line. And he had fewer interceptions, the same amount of touchdown passes, and a better completion percentage and passing rating-and led USC to more wins-than Carson Palmer did in his 2002 Heisman Trophy season. Against USC's 4 opponents in the final 2004 AP rankings (Virginia Tech, California, Arizona State and Oklahoma), he threw for 992 yards and 14 TDs with only 1 interception.
He won the 2004 Heisman Trophy (becoming the sixth Trojan to do so, along with Mike Garrett in 1965, O.J. Simpson in 1968, Charles White in 1979, Marcus Allen in 1981 and Carson Palmer in 2002). He was named the 2004 Walter Camp Player of the Year (joining 3 other Trojans to have been so honored, Simpson in 1967 and 1968, White in 1979 and Allen in 1981) and AP Player of the Year. He won the Touchdown Club of Columbus' 2004 Archie Griffin Award (nation's MVP) for the second year in a row and its Quarterback of the Year Award. He also won the inaugural 2004 Manning Award (as the nation's best quarterback), the National Quarterback Club's College Quarterback of the Year, the Victor Award College Football Player of the Year and the Sporting News Radio Socrates Award. He was named to the 2004 All-American first team by AP, Football Coaches, Walter Camp, ESPN.com, CSTV and Rivals.com, and to the second team by SI.com and Collegefootballnews.com. He was the 2004 Pac-10 Co-Offensive Player of the Year (along with teammate Reggie Bush), becoming just the fourth player to win that honor twice (and the second quarterback, along with Stanford's John Elway). He was a finalist for the 2004 Davey O'Brien Award, Maxwell Award and Cingular Wireless/ABC Sports All-America Player of the Year Award. He also was named the 2004 ESPN.com and Rivals.com All-Pac-10 Player of the Year. He was USC's 2004 Player of the Game versus Notre Dame and a team captain. He was presented with the 2004 Chuck Benedict Founder's Award (for outstanding achievement) from the Southern California Sportscasters Association and was the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation Sportsman of the Year. He also was named a finalist for the 2004 Sullivan Award (given to the nation's top amateur athlete). He was the 2004 Sports Illustrated On Campus Athlete of the Year. He was named to the 2004 Playboy Pre-Season All-American team (the first USC quarterback so honored).
In the opener against Virginia Tech while breaking in a new receiving corps, he hit 65.5% of his passes (19-of-29, despite missing on his first 4 throws) for 272 yards and 3 long TDs (he was 11-of-13 for 170 yards and 2 TDs in the second half, with 11 consecutive completions at one point). He was 20-of-31 for 231 yards and 2 short TDs (with 4 drops) in just 3 quarters of action against Colorado State (he also ran for a career-high 46 yards on 7 attempts). At BYU, he hit 22-of-34 passes for 236 yards and 2 TDs with an interception (breaking a streak of 102 pass attempts without a pick) and he also ran for a 1-yard TD (his first career score). He hit a career-best 76.7% of his passes (23-of-30) for 284 yards with a TD at Stanford and he also scored on a 1-yard sneak to earn Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was 15-of-24 for 164 yards and 2 TDs (with a pick) against California. In just 3 quarters of action against Arizona State, he threw 4 TD passes on 13-of-24 passing for 224 yards with no interceptions and also had a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown to earn The Sporting News National Player of the Week honors. He was 24-of-43 (a career high for attempts) for 217 yards and 2 scores (with a pick) against Washington (he came out after the first series of the final quarter). He hit a career-best 82.1% of his passes (23-of-28) for 235 yards and 2 TDs at Washington State (he was 18-of-21, 85.7%, for 203 yards and a TD in the first half). In the fog at Oregon State, he completed 17-of-31 passes for 205 yards with 2 TDs and an interception. He completed a career-best 27 passes in 35 attempts (77.1%) for 280 yards and 3 TDs against Arizona despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter (he hit 11 consecutive passes in the first half and was 12-of-14 for 273 yards in the second half). Against Notre Dame, he equaled a USC and Notre Dame opponent single game record with 5 TD passes (the second time in his career that he has thrown that many) as he completed 24-of-34 aerials for a career-best 400 yards (the second most ever against the Irish) with no interceptions to earn both The Sporting News College Player of the Week and Cingular Wireless/ABC Sports All-America National Player of the Week honors. He was 24-of-34 for 242 yards and an interception at UCLA (he completed his first 10 passes of the game and was 15-of-17 for 103 yards in the first half), but he was held without a TD throw for the first time in 25 games as a starter. He was the Orange Bowl MVP and made the Sports Illustrated All-Bowl Team as he threw an Orange Bowl record (and USC record-tying) 5 TD passes against Oklahoma while hitting 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards (he had 4 TDs and 243 yards in the first half).
2003: How's this for filling the shoes of a Heisman Trophy winner? Leinart, a sophomore who had never thrown a pass at USC while seeing brief action in just 3 games in 2002, won USC's starting quarterback job at the end of 2003 spring practice...by an ever-so-slight edge. He extended his hold on the job through 2003 fall practice, then put together a season in which it appeared there was little-if any-dropoff from Carson Palmer's 2002 Heisman production. In fact, Leinart's passing percentage, efficiency rating, TD passes, interceptions and won-loss record were better than Palmer's 2002 numbers. Overall in 2003 while starting all 13 games, Leinart completed 255-of-402 passes (63.4%) for 3,556 yards, 38 TDs and just 9 interceptions, plus he caught a 15-yard pass for a TD. He was a 2003 Collegefootballnews.com All-American first team, SI.com All-American second team and Rivals.com All-American honorable mention selection. He also was named the 2003 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year (only the second sophomore to win that honor, along with Stanford's John Elway in 1980) and made the All-Pac-10 first team, as well as being selected the ESPN.com All-Pac-10 MVP and first team and Collegefootballnews.com All-Pac-10 Player of the Year, Offensive MVP and first team. He was 1 of 10 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award and he even was sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting. He won the Touchdown Club of Columbus' Archie Griffin Award (nation's MVP). He was USC's team MVP and won the USC Player of the Game versus Notre Dame award.
He was third nationally in passing efficiency (164.5, first in Pac-10) and 19th in total offense (268.8, second in Pac-10). In his last 9 games, he threw for 2,632 yards and 30 TDs with just 3 interceptions on 65.5% passing (182-of-278). He threw at least 2 TDs in his last 12 games (included was a string of at least 3 TDs in the first 5 of those contests). He set a Pac-10 season record with 212 consecutive passes without an interception-stretching over 8 games-and fell just 4 passes short of the Pac-10 career record. His 164.5 passing efficiency rating was the best season in USC history. His 255 completions were third on the USC season list. His 38 TD passes was a Pac-10 season record (and the second most by any sophomore in NCAA history). His 3,494 yards of total offense was second on the USC season chart. He passed for more season yards than any sophomore in USC history, he is the first USC soph to have back-to-back 300-yard passing games and he is the first USC soph to have thrown for 3,000 yards in a season.
In his first career start, he was an efficient 17-of-30 for 192 yards with a touchdown (on his first career pass) at Auburn. He threw 3 touchdown passes against BYU while hitting 19-of-34 passes for 235 yards (but he had 3 interceptions). He then completed 71.4% of his passes (15-of-21) for 220 yards and 2 TDs (with no picks) in 3 quarters of action against Hawaii. He was 21-of-39 for 277 yards and 2 scores (but threw 3 interceptions) at California (in the second half, he hit 16-of-24 throws for 191 yards). He completed 12-of-23 passes for 289 yards and 2 TDs (57 and 33 yards) with an interception despite missing most of the second quarter with a banged up knee and ankle at Arizona State (he played while hobbled during the second half). He was 18-of-27 for 260 yards and 3 TDs (all to Mike Williams) in 3 quarters of action against Stanford (in the first half, he was 16-of-20 for 249 yards and all 3 scores). He completed 76.6% of his passes (26-of-34) for 351 yards and 4 TDs (career bests for completions, yards and TDs, as well as tying an Irish opponent record for TD passes) at Notre Dame (he hit his first 7 throws). Then, for the second week in a row, he threw for 351 yards, 4 TDs and no interceptions, this time on 19-of-29 passing (65.5%) at Washington (he was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week). He was 17-of-31 for 191 yards and 3 TDs and no interceptions against a Washington State defense that was fourth nationally in pass efficiency defense (he was 6-of-7 for 93 yards and the 3 scores in the second half). At Arizona, he was 22-of-30 for 296 yards and 4 TDs (he was taken out midway through the third quarter) while setting a USC season record for consecutive passes without an interception. He was 23-of-32 for 289 yards and 2 TDs in 3 quarters of action against UCLA (he was 12-of-14 for 171 yards and a TD in the first quarter). Against Oregon State, he tied the USC game TD pass record (shared with Palmer and Rodney Peete) when he threw 5 scores (giving him a Pac-10 record 35 on the season) while hitting 22-of-38 passes for 278 yards with 2 interceptions (ending his Pac-10 season record streak of 212 consecutive passes without an interception, just 4 short of the Pac-10 career mark). He was named the Rose Bowl MVP as he threw 3 TD passes (on 23-of-34 passing for 327 yards) and he also caught a tricky 15-yard reverse pass for a TD against Michigan.
2002: Leinart was USC's third-string quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2002. He appeared briefly late in 3 games (taking 2 snaps at Colorado, directing 3 series at Oregon and taking a snap at UCLA), but didn't throw a pass. He also served as a backup holder on placekicks, but wasn't called on in that role.
2001: Leinart redshirted as a freshman quarterback in 2001, his first year at USC. He spent the season as the co-backup to Carson Palmer, although he never got into a game. HIGH SCHOOL: His 2000 honors included Parade All-American, Super Prep All-American, Prep Star All-American, Student Sports Senior All-American, Prep Star Dream Team, Student Sports Top 100, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western Region Super 30, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West first team, Las Vegas Sun Super 11 first team, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Gatorade California Player of the Year, Cal-Hi Sports All-State second team, All-CIF Southern Section first team, All-CIF Division I Co-Offensive MVP, Los Angeles Times All-Orange County Back of the Year, Orange County Register All-Orange County first team and All-Serra League as a senior at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana (Calif.). He completed 192-of-309 passes (62.1%) for 2,870 yards, 28 TDs and 10 interceptions in 2000. Against national champion De La Salle High, he was 31-of-47 for 447 yards and 4 TDs. Mater Dei went 9-3 in 2000.
As a 1999 junior, he was the All-Serra League Offensive MVP while hitting 150-of-233 passes (64.4%) for 2,400 yards with 15 TDs and 6 interceptions. Mater Dei was the CIF Division I co-champion in 1999. He sat out his 1998 sophomore season with a rotator cuff injury to his left (throwing) shoulder. Current Trojan Will Collins also prepped at Mater Dei.
PERSONAL: He's a sociology major at USC. He was born with strabismus (cross-eyes), as his left eye was not aligned with his right (he underwent surgery when he was 3 years old and was fitted with glasses).
MATT LEINART ON:
His decision to return to USC for his senior season instead of going to the NFL:
Winning the Heisman Trophy in 2004:
The 2003 season:
Bouncing back from a first-half knee and ankle injury at Arizona State in 2003 and leading USC to victory:
The confidence his teammates had in him from the start:
Why he was a non-factor in first 2 years at USC:
Growing up overweight and cross-eyed:
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Phil Taylor, SI.com:
Steve Dilbeck, Los Angeles Daily News:
Matthew Zemek, Collegefootballnews.com:
Kelly Whiteside, USA Today:
Matt Hayes, The Sporting News:
USC All-American tailback Reggie Bush:
Former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow:
USC assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian:
Former USC quarterback Brandon Hance:
Former USC offensive guard John Drake:
Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr:
GAME-BY-GAME WITH MATT LEINART
USC CAREER PASSING LEADERS
USC CAREER TOTAL OFFENSE LEADERS