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By Zach Cavanagh

San Clemente alum Sam Darnold will forego his final two years of college eligibility at USC and declare for the NFL Draft, the former Triton quarterback announced on social media Wednesday.

“After talking to my immediate family, very close friends and many people who have helped me throughout my life, I have made the decision to declare for the 2018 NFL draft,” Darnold said in an Instagram video.

“I want to thank Coach (Jaime) Ortiz, Coach (Troy) Kopp, Coach (Marc) Popovich and everybody involved in San Clemente High School and its football program who tirelessly taught me to work hard and strive for what I want.”

Darnold went on to thank the USC athletic administration and football coaching staff as well as his USC teammates and fans.

“To Coach (Clay) Helton, I can not thank you enough for believing in a kid from San Clemente High School with such little game tape and for giving me the opportunity and chance to start at such an incredible university,” Darnold said.

Darnold, always humble and family-oriented, finished by acknowledging his family.

“Lastly, I want to thank my family. I feel like I’m not always forthcoming in how I actually feel because if I said how I felt, my mom would be crying everywhere,” Darnold said. “So I want to thank you guys for everything you guys have given me from day one.”

Darnold is ranked among the top three quarterback prospects by nearly every draft expert and figures to be an early pick in Philadelphia on April 27.

San Clemente quarterback Sam Darnold was named the CIF-SS Southwest Division offensive player of the year for the 2014-2015 season. Photo: Alan Gibby, zone57
San Clemente quarterback Sam Darnold was named the CIF-SS Southwest Division offensive player of the year for the 2014-2015 season. Photo: Alan Gibby, zone57

Darnold played three seasons of varsity football at San Clemente and led the Tritons to the 2014 CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game.

Darnold threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 39 touchdowns as a senior in that 2014 season with 785 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing.

Darnold also played three seasons of varsity basketball for San Clemente. He averaged over 14 points per game as a junior and senior to lead the Tritons in scoring each season. Darnold was twice a league MVP.

He also earned several football player and athlete of the year awards in his senior year.

Darnold was a redshirt in 2015 at USC and earned the starting quarterback role after one game in 2016. He threw for over 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns and led USC to a dramatic win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

This season Darnold threw for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns as USC won the Pac-12 championship.

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