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Steinberg: Barkley earns praise

December 24, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

For all of these reasons Matt Barkley would be taken near the top of the 2012 NFL Draft by a team that needs a franchise quarterback.

Barkley would excel in the postseason scouting process. He would light up an All-Star game, dominate the scouting combine, and teams would fall in love with him at Pro Scouting Day. He has outstanding arm strength, pinpoint accuracy, great field command, good mobility and all of the requisite leadership qualities.

The Oregon game film alone would have scouts drooling.

Barkley has impeccable character, strong speaking skills, and great leadership qualities. He improves every year. So when an NFL team is projecting the next 10 to 15 years of Barkley as its quarterback, it will do it with excitement and confidence.

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He would have received a large signing bonus and given Andrew Luck a run for the money as a possible first pick in the draft.

Barkley knows all that, and he decided to return to USC.

That he would be criticized for a risky decision shows just how distorted values have become around sports.

Pundits are pointing out that he could be injured next year and never make it to the pros. Or he could have a mediocre year and end up lower in the draft like Matt Leinart.

Barkley knows all that and has made a heartwarming, inspirational decision based on his own value system. He clearly values education, the college experience, staying with his teammates and helping his university achieve more success above short-term dollars. He comes from a strong and grounded family and had the freedom to make a decision based on his own internal compass rather than a vote of football experts

This is the kind of young man that made us all sports fans in the first place. Fans have been dispirited by the perception that all athletes care about is money and fame.

Barkley is a shining beacon of good values and priorities. He is choosing to fulfill his scholarship promises and having the full measure of the college experience.

I have seen the influence that athletes can have as role models. I have helped them set up high school and collegiate scholarships and foundations that tackle causes they care about.

Barkley is making a powerful statement in a money-mad society about the ability to choose his own path.

Southern California sports fans have much to be happy about this holiday season — Chris Paul making Clippers relevant, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson making the Angels a contender — but the most inspirational event of them all is Barkley's wonderful decision to return to USC for his senior season.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.

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