Reversal of fortune…
|11.21.08 at 6:05 pm ET|
Life has come full circle for Matt Cassel.
Matt Cassel remembers visiting the suburban Cincinnati home of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and talking about the good old days at the University of Southern California. He was still the understudy of Tom Brady at the time.
But that didn’t keep the two from reminiscing.
Cassel was backing up Palmer, who was on his way to a Heisman Trophy with the Trojans in 2002.
Cassel never got the chance to start as Matt Leinart immediately replaced Palmer under center, winning the Heisman himself two years later.
“It is an interesting relationship. It is more so that I was the understudy of Carson,” Cassel said on Thursday. “When Matt came in it was more of a collaboration because I was the older guy and maybe knew more of the offense when he first got there. Now, looking from the starting role, Carson has been a starter and is an established guy, he is just injured right now. I have had discussions with Matt and I know he is eager to get out on the field.”
Now, Cassel finds himself in the ironic position of being the only one of the three to be starting in the NFL, with Palmer nursing an elbow injury to his throwing arm while Leinart is benched behind Kurt Warner for the NFC West-leading Arizona Cardinals.
“I am sure he will and he is going to have a great career in the NFL,” Cassel said of Leinart. “He is a great player and I just tell him that he has to keep his head up and I am sure he is.”
There have been countless stories this year about how Cassel has had the patience of Job and waited until Game 2 of this NFL season for his first start since high school.
Not only that, Cassel is now the role model for Mitch Mustain, the quarterback-in-waiting behind USC starter Mark Sanchez.
“I think for any backup anywhere that my story is one that gives inspiration and gives promise to some of those guys that are fighting for a position,” Cassel said on Thursday. “Just to continue to work hard, continue to put your best foot forward each and every day and quite possibly you’re dreams will come true.”
Cassel said he doesn’t think too much about the irony in the fact he backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC and they aren’t playing and he is.
“Those guys have earned their way,” Cassel said. “They were great college players and they are great professional players. I have a lot of respect for them. I am just happy that I have an opportunity to play now and we are able to talk about those kinds of things.”
Clearly, those USC teams did a pretty good job of producing NFL-ready quarterbacks.
“It is pretty impressive,” Cassel said. “There are two other guys, two other backups that could easily be in this position. They are all good quarterbacks. We had a really good group while I was there. We worked hard and made each other better through competition. It is fun to still have that connection and relationship with those guys.”
Coming Saturday, Trags Take on the rematch between the Patriots and Fish down in Miami.
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