Cody Kessler Steps Up in the Pocket and the Community

    Quarterback Cody Kessler poses with young Trojan Joey Rodriguez.
    Nov. 5, 2014

    Cody Kessler averaged 285 yards passing per game in October. His impressive month included a seven-touchdown performance against Colorado, which earned him Pac-12 and Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week honors.

    However, it was Kessler's efforts off the field that proved most impressive.

    The USC Football team welcomed a new member to its squad this past month, when nine-year-old Joey Rodriguez signed a letter of intent to play with the Trojans at the John McKay Center.

    Joey, who is battling a brain tumor, was made an honorary member of the team during critical months of his treatment. As a perk, Joey way able to spend extra time with his favorite Trojan -- quarterback Cody Kessler.

    After posing for photos with the team, Joey followed Cody to the locker room, where he learned how to put on football pads and prepare for practice. They proceeded to tour the McKay Center and even played a few rounds of video games.

    "It was cool to be part of an afternoon that meant a lot to Joey, knowing how much he has been through," Kessler said. "It takes a lot of courage to remain as positive as he is through all of his challenges."

    Each month, USC Athletics recognizes one of its student-athletes who has gone above and beyond in the community. This October, Kessler's embodiment of the Trojan spirit earned him the honor as Trojan Outreach Athlete of the Month.

    Over the past few weeks, Kessler took time to get to know Joey, who was shy at first but showed off a big smile after fitting into a number-six USC jersey, the same number his favorite player wears each Saturday.

    Joey plans to attend the rest of the Trojan home games this season along with a few practices as his treatment allows.

    Friends of Jaclyn, the organization that connected Joey with the Trojans, is a nonprofit that improves the quality of life for children living with pediatric brain tumors. Their efforts have connected 376 oncology patients with sports teams around the country.



    Kessler's dedication to the community did not end with his young mentee. Later in the month, he joined five other Trojan football players for an opportunity to interact with U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.

    Through a live video feed set up in the McKay Center, Kessler and his teammates played video games with active military personnel. The day generated a greater appreciation for the men and women who serve overseas.

    "It was a fun and unique experience to get to play online with those guys and get a chance to chat with them and have some fun," Kessler said. "Those are guys who do so much for us and it was cool to get an opportunity to spend some time in that way."

    Pro vs. GI Joe is a non-profit that sets up real-time video-game competitions, online and in-person, between professional athletes or celebrities and troops stationed all over the world.

    Cody Kessler's inspiring efforts didn't hinder his production on the field, as he set a Trojan record with seven touchdown passes in a single game on his way to 10 during the month.

    For more information, check out this video about Joey's big day.