Commentary

Not your typical frosh

Matt Barkley's life is just like any USC freshman's. Kidding.

Updated: October 31, 2009, 9:07 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN The Magazine

L: Rae Reilly | R: Jeff Golden/Getty Images

Two boys, both true freshmen, stand at a USC football practice. Both are close to 6-foot-3. Both are 19 years old.

Marvin, a computer science major, is from Brooklyn. Matt, a communication major, is from Newport Beach, Calif.

Marvin likes Will Ferrell movies. Matt knows Will Ferrell. "He came up to me on the field after the Ohio State game. He said, 'Dude, you scared me!'"

Marvin complains, "I never have any time." He is taking 20 credits and is a member of a fraternity. Matt complains, "I don't have much time to do stuff." He is taking only 12 credits, but he's on the football team and is always having to bother with Brent Musburger and CBS News and Reuters.

Marvin has a Facebook page. Matt has had three Facebook pages, none of which were his. They were all fakes. "It's kinda crazy," Matt admits.

Marvin looks at his phone a lot. Matt looks at other people's phones a lot. "Everybody wants a picture," he says. "A few people pretend they're texting but they're holding the phones up in front of their face, so you know they're taking a picture. That's kind of weird. I get a lot of weird looks in the cafeteria, too, I guess. People try to come up and buy my lunch, but I won't let them."

Nobody has tried to buy Marvin's lunch yet.

When they're home, neither Marvin nor Matt like to get up. "I like to sleep until anywhere from 11 to 1," Marvin says. Says Matt's dad, Les, "Matt never gets riled up about anything, except when we make him get up. He's a pro sleeper."

On Saturdays, Marvin has to do chores at the frat. On Saturdays, Matt has to do chores for the football team. Like beat Ohio State and Notre Dame. On the road.

On Fridays before home games, Marvin likes to go to the Heritage Hall pep rallies to yell and sing and chant players' names. On Fridays, Matt likes to go to the Heritage Hall pep rallies to yell and sing and hear the students chant his name.

On Friday nights, Marvin usually has to go work at his frat's parties, guarding the stairs so people don't go up. On Friday nights, Matt usually has to go the downtown L.A. Marriott to study game film and get ready to star in a game that will be seen by 90,000 people live and millions more on national TV and can make or break hundreds of thousands of dollars in alumni donations.

Neither gets paid.

On Saturdays, Marvin has to do chores at the frat. On Saturdays, Matt has to do chores for the football team. Like beat Ohio State and Notre Dame. On the road.

When he's done at the frat, Marvin runs to the games and sings along with the marching band. His favorite song is "Tusk." Matt doesn't sing along with the marching band, but we assume No. 7's favorite song is "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes, played by the SC band at key moments in Trojan games.

Nobody has played a song in honor of Marvin yet.

The Oregon State game last weekend was exhausting for Marvin. After every touchdown USC scored, Marvin and his friends had to lift a girl -- Becky -- over their heads for every point the Trojans had. Since USC scored 42 points in its win, that's 147 girlpresses. "My chest was sore after the game," Marvin complains.

The Oregon State game last weekend was exhausting for Matt. He played all four quarters, throwing for 202 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Still, his coach wasn't happy with him. "He had a couple miscalculations," Pete Carroll said. Carroll didn't mention that Matt still hasn't lost a game as a starter for the fourth-ranked Trojans.

Marvin is a very good cook: "Pancakes, omelettes, all kinds of stuff," he says. Matt is a terrible cook. "I can do cereal with milk. But I've discovered the greatest blessing on earth -- Sunday sorority brunches!"

One Sunday morning, Marvin was outside a sorority waiting for brunch when Matt rode up on his bike. That's when Marvin Blugh and Matt Barkley shook hands for the first and only time, just two freshman boys trying to find their way. "He was very polite and nice," Marvin says. "We're about the same size. I think he's done really well for a freshman."

Could Matt do what Marvin does? "Take 20 credits and be in a fraternity?" Marvin asks. "No way. Not and play football, too. But he seems like a smart kid."

Marvin is the first American-born child in his family. Matt could be the first player taken in the 2012 NFL draft.

Someday, Marvin hopes to be in the CIA, maybe as a white hat hacker. Someday, Matt hopes to be in the NFL, maybe as a Green Bay Packer.

Eventually, Marvin would like to design video games. Eventually, Matt would like to star in them.

Marvin's parents are very proud of him. So are Matt's.

Neither has a girlfriend yet.

We like their chances.


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