11Mike Van Raaphorst
CAREER: He is ninth on USC’s career passing list (232 completions) and 19th on the Trojans’ all-time total offense chart (2,809 yards). He also owns the USC single game passing yardage record (415 yards versus Stanford in 1999, 27th on the Pac-10 list) and total offense mark (390 yards against Stanford in 1999). He has started 15 games in his 3-year career.
2000: The heady, experienced Van Raaphorst, who stars both on the field and in the classroom, will back up Carson Palmer at quarterback as a senior in 2000, but he is tested enough to step in and run USC’s offense without a hitch. He also will be the backup holder on all placekicks.
PAUL HACKETT SAYS: “We have a very capable backup quarterback in Mike. He is bright, experienced, efficient and poised. He has shown he can do the job.”
1999: Van Raaphorst began his 1999 junior year as the backup quarterback behind Carson Palmer for 3 games, but he soon took over the starting duties for 5 games (Oregon State, Arizona, Notre Dame, Stanford and California) for an injured Palmer before giving way to John Fox for USC’s final 4 outings (he was Fox’s backup in those games). Overall in 1999 while appearing in 8 games, he was USC’s leading passer as he completed 139-of-258 passes (53.9%) for 1,758 yards with 8 TDs and 9 interceptions. His 139 completions in 1999 was good for 14th on USC’s season passing ladder. He also had 38 carries for –169 yards (-4.4 avg.) and made 2 tackles. He was a classroom star, too. He won USC’s Bob Chandler Award (top underclassman athlete/student/leader). In the opener at Hawaii, he relieved Palmer when USC opened up a big lead and completed 5-of-10 passes for 83 yards. He didn’t play in the next game against San Diego State. When Palmer broke his collarbone at Oregon, Van Raaphorst came in and performed brilliantly, completing 20-of-36 passes for 227 yards (all then-career bests) with a TD. He then got his first start of 1999 and responded well by completing 17-of-31 passes for 197 yards against Oregon State. At Arizona, he completed 23-of-41 passes for 291 yards, all then-career highs, and threw 2 TDs with an interception. The next game at Notre Dame, he posted near-identical numbers as he threw for a career-best 298 yards on 23-of-41 passing (equaling his career highs), with 2 TD tosses and an interception. Against Stanford, he set a USC single game record with 415 passing yards (27th on the Pac-10 list) and his yardage, completions (25) and attempts (51) set or equaled career bests for the third week in a row (he also had career highs with 3 TD passes, including a pair of 64-yarders, and 3 interceptions); his 390 yards of total offense was also a USC single game mark. He started at California and hit 14-of-24 passes for 156 yards with an interception before being relieved early in the third quarter by John Fox. Fox started the next game against Arizona State before giving way early in the second half to Van Raaphorst, who was 12-of-24 for 91 yards with 2 picks. He didn’t play in USC’s final 3 games (against Washington State, UCLA and Louisiana Tech).
1998: Van Raaphorst started USC’s first 8 games of 1998 at quarterback as a sophomore, sharing time in those outings with Carson Palmer, then he gave way as Palmer played all of the final 5 contests. Overall in 1998, Van Raaphorst was 77-of-155 (49.7%) for 1,066 yards and 8 TDs with 4 interceptions. He also had 21 carries for –54 yards (-2.6 avg.) with a TD. After the season, he had arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, which forced him out of 1999 spring drills. He was 11-of-22 for 89 yards in the Purdue opener despite playing with a touch of food poisoning, 13-of-26 for 189 yards and 2 TDs (all then-career highs) against San Diego State and 12-of-26 for 174 yards with a 47-yard TD against Oregon State, but then struggled at Florida State while bothered with a pre-game stomach virus, going 1-of-9 for 5 yards. He hit 11-of-23 passes for a then-career-high 191 yards and 1 TD against Arizona State (he also ran for an 8-yard score), threw 2 TD passes while going 11-of-22 for a career-high 203 yards against California and was 9-of-15 for 99 yards and a TD at Washington State before becoming ill when he was hit in the stomach. At Oregon, he was 9-of-12 (including completing his final 6 tosses) for 116 yards and a TD. He did not see any action in USC’s final 4 contests.
1997: Van Raaphorst began his 1997 redshirt freshman season as the backup to John Fox at quarterback, but won the job by mid-season and started twice (Washington and Stanford). He would have held onto the starting spot except for an ankle injury. Overall while appearing in 5 games (Arizona State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Washington and Stanford) in 1997, he was 21-of-46 (45.7%) for 218 yards and 1 TD with 2 interceptions. He also had 9 carries for –10 yards (-1.1 avg.). He made his first career start at Washington, where he went 5-of-18 for 46 yards with 2 picks (but 5 of his throws were dropped) while playing the first half. He started again versus Stanford and went 12-of-21 for 128 yards and a TD before a sprained right ankle sidelined him late in the third quarter (he missed the next 2 games, Oregon State and UCLA). Before that, he filled in briefly for Fox against Arizona State (2-of-3, 23 yds), Notre Dame (2-of-3, 21 yds) and Oregon (0-of-1).
1996: Van Raaphorst redshirted as a freshman quarterback in 1996, his first year at USC. He was bothered by tendinitis in his right shoulder prior to the Illinois game and was sidelined the rest of the season (he had surgery prior to the California contest).
HIGH SCHOOL: He was named a 1995 Super Prep All-American, Bluechip All-American, Super Prep All-Farwest, Bluechip All-Western, Long Beach Press-Telegram Best of the Rest, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, All-CIF San Diego second team, All-CIF San Diego Division II first team, All-East County first team, All-Grossmont South League first team, and Student Sports All-Academic as a senior quarterback at Helix High in La Mesa (Calif.). He completed 52.0% of his passes (128-of-246) for 2,207 yards and 19 TDs (with just 5 interceptions) in 1995. Helix was 10-3 in 1995. Current Trojan Travis Watkins also prepped at Helix. As a 1994 junior at Grossmont High in La Mesa, he threw for 978 yards while hitting 92-of-166 aerials (55.4%) and 9 TDs with just 2 picks despite missing 5 games with a broken thumb. He passed for 1,087 yards and 6 TDs as a 1993 sophomore at Grossmont while earning All-League honorable mention notice. In his career, he hit 55.0% of his passes for 4,272 yards and 34 TDs. He transferred back to Grossmont in the spring of 1996. At Grossmont, he also played volleyball (making All-East County second team and All-League second team as a junior) and basketball (earning All-East County second team and All-Grossmont League first team honors as a senior while averaging 16 points and All-East County first team and All-League first team notice as a junior while averaging 17 points; he also was a member of Grossmont’s 1993 CIF championship team as a soph). He starred in the classroom, too, posting a 4.38 prep GPA.
PERSONAL: He has an A- average (co-team-high 3.72 GPA) and received his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism/political science from USC in May of 2000. He has been accepted into USC’s M.B.A. program and will begin courses in it in the fall of 2000. He made the 1999 Pac-10 All-Academic first team and the 1997 Pac-10 All-Academic honorable mention team. His father, Dick, was a kicker with the San Diego Chargers in 1966 and 1967 after starring at Ohio State (his 44-yard field goal provided the Buckeyes’ only points in a 32-3 loss to USC in 1963 and was the second longest against the Trojans at the time). Mike’s brother, Jeff, lettered 4 years (1983-86) as a record-setting quarterback at Arizona State (he was MVP of the 1987 Rose Bowl) and his 95-yard TD pass to Aaron Cox in 1985 still ranks as the longest pass against USC. Another brother, Bill, was an offensive lineman at San Diego State in the mid-1990s and is now a minor league umpire.
MIKE VAN RAAPHORST ON:
His USC Career: “It’s been a long road. I’d be lying to you if I said it’s been easy. It’s been very difficult. I’ve come to understand a lot of things are out of my hands and I just have to deal with them, but I’ve also learned to accept the things that I can change and work on that…Anytime you go from being the main guy to serving in a backup role is extremely difficult. But it has been a growing experience. God has challenged me with this. I hope I’ve dealt with it the right way…I’ve come too far in this school with all aspects of my life to just leave. It’s been difficult, but I definitely have improved. It came with experience and learning the system better…Now, my reads have cleaned up a little. I now what to look for. I think I just make smarter decisions…I really enjoy it at USC. I’ve built a life here. I wasn’t going to give it up…My career has been up and down, but I try to ride on an even keel, and I think my faith helps me with that…I came here to play football and as long as I’m doing that I’m going to give it everything I have, whether I’m the starter or the backup. God gave me the ability to work hard, so that’s what I do.”
Regaining the starting job in 1999 after Carson Palmer was injured: “God works in mysterious ways…It’s like this is ‘The Twilight Zone’ or something…I was thankful for the opportunity, but I was sorry for what happened to Carson…It’s funny. Things change. College football is an amazing game. A lot of people thought my career was over, and all of a sudden it’s time to play. I felt back for Carson, but we had to pick up the pieces and move on…I was prepared. As the backup, I had been preparing the same way as I did when I was a starter. Once I got the first series out of the way, I was fine…As a backup, you prepare, but you don’t get as many snaps in practice and you don’t expect to see much playing time…I just tried to stay involved mentally. It paid off. I knew what to do when I got in there.”
Losing the starting job in 1998: “It was rough, but that was the situation I was in and I really can’t do much to change what the coaches decide. I’ve got to do the best I can do. I felt that I steadily got better as the year went by...Carson is a great guy and we get along very well. We learn to separate things from football.”
Competing for the quarterback job in 1997 as a redshirt freshman: “It was fun and interesting. I was disappointed I didn’t win the job, because I don’t like being the backup, but I accepted that role and did what I could do with it...It’s about every emotion you can feel. You want your team to do well and for everyone to succeed, but at the same time you want to get in there and show what you can do...It was like being a pinch hitter. When you get your chance, you’ve got to go in there and do well. I went in there expecting the level of play not decreasing and hopefully increasing. That’s the way I feel about myself and my ability.”
Redshirting in 1996 and having shoulder surgery: “It wasn’t the redshirting that hurt me, but not being able to practice because of the surgery. I missed six or seven weeks of practice that year. That really stunted my development as a quarterback. I had a bigger hole to catch up with going into the spring of 1997 and then the fall. I had to get back that lost time and I don’t think I ever could chase it down.”
Christianity: “Becoming a Christian has been a big part of my development, as an athlete and as a person. It has helped me a ton as far as keeping myself on an even basis, not letting my emotions get too high or too low...Being a Christian helps me out a lot. My attitude with everything is just different now. I think things would have definitely affected me before this, that I’d react differently...I was always raised in the church, but I never made it a conscious effort to fully devote myself to God. I look back on that and say that it was the highlight of my life. It wasn’t one particular event that made it happen. It took me 20 years of learning and trying to do things on my own, and I finally realized that I couldn’t do it alone. Now when I play, I have an audience of one, whereas before I was playing for everybody else...I’m sure my teammates have noticed the change. I’be gone about leading my life differently and hopefully they recognize that. A lot of people question how you can go from one lifestyle to another. It was a drastic change. My thoughts are so different now. I used to go out with a lot of the guys and do a lot of the stuff that college guys tend to do. I just couldn’t find happiness or solace in all that. But it’s not like I’ve closed myself from hanging out with the guys on the team. Everybody has something to offer.”
Brother, Jeff, who is a radio analyst on Arizona State football games: “It’s not a secret that he pulls for me. Blood is thicker than anything. He’s not going to shy away from that. But the USC-ASU week is the one week that we don’t talk. Neither of us wants to give the impression that we’re sharing any information about the other school.”
Watching older brother Jeff in the 1987 Rose Bowl: “I decided right then I wanted to play in Pasadena some day.”
Majoring in broadcast journalism: “It’s interesting to learn all of the intricacies that are involved in broadcasting. It’s definitely given me a different perspective on journalism. I know that reporters are out to get what they need for a story and that if they are saying or writing something negative, it’s not necessarily their opinion but just their job.”
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
Former USC quarterbacks coach Ken O’Brien: “Mike is extremely talented and bright, and he’s a hard worker who is always willing to do whatever it takes.”
USC quarterback Carson Palmer: “Mike always helps me out. He’s very smart. He knows the first read, the second read, the third read. He knows all the outlets. He’s quick to see everything…He’s not going to give up. That’s just the type of person he is. When our roles changed, he never took a day off, never took a practice off. He was always there…I don’t think anybody in the world could handle the situation as well as he has. He’s always behind me, supporting me all the way. He’s a great guy.”
Arizona head coach Dick Tomey: “He would be playing first team quarterback for a lot of teams. He has an outstanding arm and he has a tremendous background. He’s a good quarterback.”
MIKE VAN RAAPHORST CAREER STATISTICS