USC freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart upgraded his résumé this week, as he was named the 2020-21 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence surprised Dart with the news, telling him that he won the award over a Zoom call. It was a really awesome moment for both Lawrence and Dart.
Over the past few years, we've seen notable players win this particular award. In fact, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2015.
Although there's still a lot of work left to be done, Dart has the skillset needed to become a star at the quarterback position. With the right development at USC, he could end up blossoming into a dynamic player.
We sat down with Jaxson Dart to discuss his initial reaction to winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, how his first few weeks of practice with the Trojans have been, his relationship with Clay Helton and much more.
The Spun: What was it like to win the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award?
Jaxson Dart: It feels so surreal. Seeing the guys who have won it and knowing the competition I went up against this year, being able to win it is an incredible feeling.
The Spun: What was it like to be surprised by Trevor Lawrence with the Gatorade National Football Player of the Year award?
JD: Yeah, that was crazy. I was told this would be a PAC-12 storyline with me and my coach. Then they switched it over to Trevor, so I realized this wasn’t going in the PAC-12 direction [laughing].
The Spun: Are there any quarterbacks, maybe Trevor Lawrence, who you like to study on film?
JD: I think growing up I’ve been able to watch many guys. I’ve watched elite quarterbacks like Tom Brady. Lately though, I’ve been watching Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Josh Allen. I’m trying to pick little things out of their games. Having relationships with some of them has helped me a bunch. They’re definitely guys I’ve watched and tried to pick tendencies from.
The Spun: How has the adjustment been from high school to college?
JD: It definitely took me a few weeks to get used to everything going on. You’re dealing with a different environment and you’re away from family, so it takes time. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than with the people at USC. They’re all extremely welcoming, and I’m feeling more and more comfortable each and every week.
The Spun: Have you been able to receive any pointers from Kedon Slovis?
JD: I think it’s really cool to watch Kedon. This is going to be his third year starting and he’s had a ton of time in this offense. When you watch him at practice, you’ll see that he’s super precise. He’s helped me a bunch thus far. If I slip up in practice, he’ll come over and give me little hints.
The Spun: How would you grade your progression thus far in spring camp?
JD: I’d probably give myself a B. I feel like I have a lot more to show.
The Spun: What’s a part of your game you’re trying to improve?
JD: I would say the more comfortable I get in this offense, the more I’ll be able to flash my abilities here and there. Being able to understand the offense and how to attack the defense when we have a certain play call are big things for me. The more reps that I get, the more sparks that I’ll have.
The Spun: You recently named Reggie Bush your favorite USC alum. How do you think you’ll react when you meet him?
JD: It would be crazy. The reason I picked Reggie Bush is because I didn’t grow up a huge USC fan. I actually grew up a Utah fan. The spotlight, when I was young, was always on Reggie. He was an elite player who I loved watching.
The Spun: What is Jaxson Dart’s favorite Gatorade flavor?
JD: I probably switch every year. I used to be a huge “Orange” guy, but now I’d say it’s probably the “Lemon Lime” or the “Cool Blue.”
The Spun: What do you think will be going through your mind when you make your first start for USC?
JD: I think there are going to be a lot of things going through my head, but hopefully, I can put some of those things away, live in the moment and take it all in. I have to trust the process and all the techniques I’ve learned. I feel like that day will come soon, so I just need to be ready for my shot.
The Spun: What has your relationship with Clay Helton been like?
JD: It’s growing and getting better each week. He was awesome throughout my recruitment process. When I needed to ask him tough questions, he was always there to be straightforward with me. The guy who recruited me is the same guy who I’m playing for, there hasn’t been anything that’s changed. He really respects me as a person, as well as my family, my morals, and values. I really appreciate him and I feel like we have a great relationship – on and off the field.
The Spun: Did the Trojans’ history with quarterbacks play a factor in your college decision?
JD: Most definitely. That’s something that stood out to me a ton. I’d love to follow in so many of the USC greats’ footsteps at the quarterback position and excel in college football as well as the NFL.
The Spun: What can USC fans expect from Jaxson Dart?
JD: I would say I’m pretty electric. I feel like I can make a ton of different plays and make things happen when plays break down. I feel like I bring a lot of electric abilities to the table.
Dart is expected to compete for the backup quarterback job this offseason. Eventually, he'll get his chance to lead USC's offense.
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