Skyline quarterback Max Browne passes on Dawgs for USC

April 10, 2012

By Mason Kelley

Nation’s top prep passer dreamed of throwing for the Trojans

Not long after Max Browne’s plane touched down in Los Angeles, the Skyline High School quarterback was sitting down to lunch at Lemonade, a USC hot spot, with Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley.

Browne, the nation’s top-rated prep passer according to both Rivals.com and Scout.com, admitted he was “kind of nervous,” but the latest in a long line of USC All-American quarterbacks quickly put him at ease.

“Matt Barkley is a guy you see on ESPN very consistently,” said Browne, who ordered a chicken sandwich Barkley recommended. “That’s one of the biggest things you find with the guys at USC — they’re just real guys. I sat down for an hourlong lunch with Matt Barkley and it was an easy conversation.”

After three days in Southern California, Browne decided he was ready to tell friends and teammates he would play football for the Trojans. He made the announcement the night of April 4 at Skyline.

“USC came into the picture several months ago and, ever since then, they really went after me hard,” Browne said. “As a quarterback growing up on the West Coast, at least for me personally, there was always the dream of growing up and being the quarterback for the Trojans.”

Browne sat with Skyline coach Mat Taylor at a table in the school gym for the announcement. After thanking his family, coaches and teammates, Browne turned around, pulled a hat out of a bag and slipped off his sweatshirt. When he turned back to face the crowd, he was wearing a black T-shirt and hat, featuring the crimson-and-gold USC logo.

“The coaches said when I was down there, ‘Max, it’s one thing to have great players, but our best players are our best guys. That goes for Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, Matt Barkley, all those guys,’” Browne said. “It’s just a special place to be.”

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior picked the Trojans over Oklahoma, Washington and Alabama.

“When Peyton Manning was making his decision (to go to the Denver Broncos), he said ‘I saw a lot of great teams, but I can’t play for them all. I’m going to make the right decision for me.’ Max was similar,” Browne’s father Mike said. “There were a lot of great programs. He could not make a wrong decision.”

After landing Lakes lineman Zach Banner just before signing day in January, USC reeled in the state’s top recruit in the 2013 class.

“He’s very, very special,” Taylor said. “He’s got everything you want. He’s got the size. He’s got the mind. He’s got the football IQ, his leadership ability. The sky is truly the limit.”

Barkley is entering his senior season and the Trojans didn’t sign a quarterback in 2012, so Browne fills a position of need. Like Barkley, who won the starting job as a freshman, Browne is working toward graduating early so he can enroll at USC in time for spring football next year.

“I’m going to go to USC to compete, try to mix things up,” Browne said. “I’ve been to their quarterback meetings and practices, and seen firsthand Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. They’re great quarterbacks. There’s a reason they’re at USC.”

Browne has already been exposed to the pressure of replacing a big-name quarterback. He spent his freshman year at Skyline as Jake Heaps’ understudy. Browne earned the starting job as a sophomore and passed for 4,182 yards and 50 touchdowns, leading the Spartans to the Class 4A state-title game.

He topped the 4,000-yard mark again during Skyline’s state-title run in 2011 and has thrown for 8,216 yards and 95 touchdowns in two seasons.

Now that the decision has been made, Browne can get back to preparing for his senior season, which includes major matchups against out-of-state opponents — Manatee, of Bradenton, Fla., and Cottonwood, of Murray, Utah.

“We have a huge schedule ahead of us and I wanted to focus on it with all the guys,” Browne said. “I just kind of want to move on to Skyline High School football.”

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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