Last summer Brandon Hancock, a highly touted 6'2" fullback from Clovis West High, in Fresno, made two tough decisions. First he chose to attend Southern Cal over Stanford, Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame. Then he decided to forgo the final semester of his senior year to enroll at USC early, begin work toward a degree and participate in spring drills. Matriculating early is a path that is gaining popularity around the country—last January at least 15 other football players did so—though college coaches emphasize that only the most well-rounded student-athletes should attempt it.
Hancock, a physically precocious 18-year-old, has the alltime highest high school cumulative score on the strength, speed and agility tests at Nike's training camps. He's also an honors student who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and he had to get approval from his school board before he was allowed to cram into one semester the three independent study courses and seven regular classes he needed to graduate in December 2001. A few weeks later he was in LA., experiencing all that defines life for a collegian. What follows is the diary Hancock kept for SI detailing the ups and downs of his early leap to higher education—in the classroom and on the field.
JANUARY 17, 2002
I'll start by explaining why I gave up my final months of high school. I really didn't see it as that big a sacrifice. I'm a one-sport athlete, so once football season was over, I didn't want to fight senioritis and kill time until graduation. I wanted to remain productive and excel. Also, I like being an underclassman. It may sound strange, but I enjoy having people to look up to and keep me humble. In high school I had reached all the goals I had set for myself. I knew USC would offer new challenges. By doing this I'll get ahead with my course work and get to participate in spring practice, hopefully increasing my chance of seeing playing time in the fall. Although I'm not leaving a girlfriend behind, I will miss a lot of good friends. But Coach [Pete] Carroll and the staff at USC are more than happy to let me go home for the prom or any other high school function I want to attend. Overall, I mink I have much more to gain than to lose.
I drove down here about a week ago in the 1990 BMW my parents are letting me use, and I was immediately swept up by fraternity rush. I went to a party every night for four nights. Some houses had 400 people and two deejays, and it seemed as if every house made sure the girl-to-guy ratio was 3 to 1. A friend of mine from Fresno is a Pi Kappa, and that frat rushed me and eventually offered me a bid. I said thanks, but not now. My priorities coming here are to establish myself athletically and academically. I'll have time for that other stuff later.
Tom Malone [a punter who enrolled early] and I came here midway through the academic year, so there wasn't room for us in the dorms that house most of the football players. We're living at a new dorm that just opened up. My roommate is an English major, and I don't see much of him.
I had heard the horror stories about dorm food, but so far I've been pleasantly surprised. The cafeteria near my dorm has good variety and a great salad bar.
I'm taking three classes, each for four units: Writing 140, Philosophy 140 and Intro to Technical Programming. Fortunately, none of them starts before 11 a.m.
Things here are spectacular. I just got back from the USC-Stanford basketball game at the Sports Arena. [Guard] Chris Hernandez was a good friend of mine in high school, and he's now playing for Stanford as a true freshman. I sat in an empty courtside seat right behind Chris's bench, so I was able to razz him when he came out. Keyshawn Johnson was right next to me. I introduced myself, and he gave me the whole spiel about the big shoes I had to fill and what a great tradition we have at USC.