Football   
    Sporting News Names Matt Leinart 2005 Sportsman of the Year
    <blank>

    Dec. 20, 2005

    Matt Leinart may be one of the nation's most recognized quarterbacks, but he finds joy in the little things­, like his aging, bumperless Ford Ranger, "Danger Ranger;" eating lunch with his dad on Wednesdays and visiting his old high school­enough joy to put an eight-figure bank account on hold. To honor his sheer love of the game Sporting News has named Leinart 2005 Sportsman of the Year.

    While his down-to-earth attitude is a compelling attribute, it was Leinart's record breaking play that really sealed the deal. Leinart is 36-1 in three years as USC's starting quarterback. He has thrown for 10,095 yards and his passer rating, 160.5, is fifth all-time. Leinart has rung up 95 touchdown passes, a Pac-10 record, with just 22 interceptions.

    Leinart doesn't just rack up numbers. He gets results and has the hardware to prove it­a Heisman and two national championships.

    Leinart is, above all, an athlete who is at ease with himself and the engineer of his own destiny. When it came time for him to decide between a potential $49.5 million deal in the NFL or to continue his career at USC, Leinart decided he just wanted to be a kid for another year.

    He made the decision himself, and while though laudable to some critics, Leinart estimated that by the end of last season he was at just 75 percent and didn't want to have to face the NFL draft gauntlet in less-than-perfect condition. Leinart also wanted to fulfill a goal he set back in the summer of 2004, when USC's win streak was in fledgling form. He told Sporting News that his goal was to stay through senior year and win three titles­which is why those who know Leinart best aren't surprised he stuck around another year.

    And his decision has paid off. "He has gotten better in every way," says USC coach Pete Carroll. "He is stronger, he is more fit, he is more confident, he is smarter, he is more mobile."

    "I have great admiration for Matt Leinart and what he has accomplished in his three seasons as a starter at USC," said John Rawlings, Sr. VP/Editorial Director of Sporting News. "First, he took over as starting quarterback with high-pressure expectations and handled those very gracefully. Then he leads USC to a national championship and wins the Heisman. This year he played very well and watched while his teammate, Reggie Bush, won the Heisman and did nothing but encourage that. All-round, he is a remarkable young man."

    Sporting News, the nation's oldest sports publication, has presented the Sportsman of the Year award annually for the last 37 years. The honoree is determined in conference by editors.

    SPORTING NEWS SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

    1968 Denny McLain
    1969 Tom Seaver
    1970 John Wooden
    1971 Lee Trevino
    1972 Charlie Finley
    1973 O.J. Simpson
    1974 Lou Brock
    1975 Archie Griffin
    1976 Larry O'Brien
    1977 Steve Cauthen
    1978 Ron Guidry
    1979 Willie Stargell
    1980 George Brett
    1981 Wayne Gretzky
    1982 Whitey Herzog
    1983 Bowie Kuhn
    1984 Peter Ueberroth
    1985 Pete Rose
    1986 Larry Bird
    1987 No award
    1988 Jackie Joyner-Kersee
    1989 Joe Montana
    1990 Nolan Ryan
    1991 Michael Jordan
    1992 Mike Krzyzewski
    1993 Cito Gaston & Pat Gillick
    1994 Emmitt Smith
    1995 Cal Ripken, Jr.
    1996 Joe Torre
    1997 Mark McGwire
    1998 Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa
    1999 New York Yankees
    2000 Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner
    2001 Curt Schilling
    2002 Tyrone Willingham
    2003 Dick Vermeil and Jack McKeon
    2004 Tom Brady
    2005 Matt Leinart