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COLLEGE FOOTBALL Leinart's decision expected today



Published: Fri, January 14, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



He is wavering about whether to enter the NFL draft.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart has delayed announcing whether he will return to Southern California for his senior season or turn pro, saying he will reveal his plans today.

"I need an extra day to continue gathering information," the USC quarterback said Thursday, the day he originally set as his deadline for the decision.

The NFL deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Saturday.

Two other USC juniors, linebacker Lofa Tatupu and punter Tom Malone, also are expected to say today whether they will enter the draft.

Leinart, 21, appears to be having a difficult time deciding. Early this week he said he has sometimes changed his mind almost hourly.

Pressed for time

The redshirt junior and the Trojans didn't play their final game of the season until Jan. 4, when he threw an Orange Bowl record five touchdown passes in a 55-19 win over Oklahoma that gave USC a second consecutive national title.

The 11 days between that game and the NFL deadline haven't given him much time to weigh his options.

He has consulted with coaches, friends, teammates, NFL quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Ben Roethlisberger and -- most importantly, Leinart said -- his parents.

"I'm allowed to talk to really anybody. I can talk to [NFL] head coaches, I can talk to GMs, and coach [Pete] Carroll has told me that whoever I want to talk to, just let him know and he has the numbers," Leinart said earlier this week.

"There's just so much stuff. It's almost like I learn something new every day, so it makes the decision a lot harder when you find out new information. If I declare for the draft, then you have to think of every possible thing. You've got to think of what other quarterbacks are going, like where do you want to train."

Leinart said his final decision will be "really what I want to do and what's going to make me happy and what's best for my family at this time."

Million-dollar gamble

If he opts for the NFL now, he will become a multimillionaire. If he plays another season for USC, his goal will be to lead the Trojans to an unprecedented third consecutive national championship.

His stock in the 2006 NFL draft probably would depend on whether he made it through this year's USC's season without a significant injury, and on whether his performance was up to this past season's Heisman Trophy-winning caliber.

Leinart returned to class this week after winter break, carrying an 18-unit load that would enable him to graduate with a degree in sociology.

"I realize you can always come back and finish up. A degree from here is very important to me and my parents, for them to see me graduate," he said. "If I come back, I can drop some units and extend it to the fall. If I leave, I don't know what I'll do.

"In a perfect world, I'd like to go to school and train [for the NFL combine]. But, if you leave, you won't want to go to class."




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