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THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
THE ORIGINAL: Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart has already been the places Mater Dei's Matt Barkley seems to be going.

Comparisons to Leinart don't faze Mater Dei QB Barkley

Comparisons to Leinart don't faze Mater Dei QB Barkley

OCVarsity.com
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Barkley, Gatorade's national athlete of the year, says 'I'm just going to be me.'

BEVERLY HILLS- If Matt Barkley's been asked it once, he's been asked it a thousand times: “What's it like to be compared to Matt Leinart?”

For a guy who’s described by the Arizona Cardinals quarterback as, “the best football player in high school in America,” the comparisons are understandable.

The question comes as no surprise to Barkley or anyone else. The similarities between the two go far beyond the obvious shared first name, becoming somewhat eerie when laid out in order.

Both have played starting quarterback for Mater Dei, with Leinart leading his team to a CIF Division I co-Championship in 1999 and Barkley guiding the Monarchs to a No. 1 state ranking during the 2007 season.

Both will be Trojans, as long as Barkley, the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2009, keeps his commitment to USC. Leinart helped lead the cardinal and gold to back-to-back national championships and captured a Heisman Trophy in the process.

Both have been tutored by Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson and quarterbacks coach Dave Money, as well as private quarterbacks coach Steve Clarkson, who is credited by both Matts for much of their success on the field.

Both are recipients of Gatorade athlete-of-the-year awards — Leinart was the 2000-01 California Football Player of the Year and Barkley earned both the national male athlete of the year and national football player of the year awards for 2007-08.

And in possibly the strangest similarity, both have suffered identical season-ending injuries from a broken collarbone. Leinart, now with the Arizona Cardinals, broke his in a game against the St. Louis Rams last season. Barkley, a junior, suffered his in the playoffs of his freshman season.

So the comparison is there.

Add to that a friendship built from school pride, shared paths and joint workouts and you have the makings of something special.

It was Leinart who presented Barkley with Gatorade Athlete of the Year award, pulling the name out of a mini-Gatorade bucket and saying, “It's my man Matt Barkley,” with a smile.

And it was Leinart who poked his head out from behind a curtain to answer the question of “Are you and Matt Leinart friends?” that had been posed to Barkley, shouting, “Yeah, we're friends.”

So when the question is posed to Barkley, he's not caught off guard. It's gotten to a point where he has to expect the question to be asked. And while he might have some years to go before he reaches the level of success and fame of his well-known buddy, Barkley gives an answer that any coach would love.

“People make that comment a lot, but like I've said before, I'm just going to do what I can,” Barkley said. “If that means championships or trophies or if it means nothing, then that's what's going to happen.

“I'm just going to be me.”

Related: More Matt Barkley bio information, stories, photos and videos

Contact the writer: ktrudgeon@ocregister.com


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