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About Matt

Matthew Leinart (born May 11, 1983 in Santa Ana, California) is an American football quarterback (QB) for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Southern California Trojans, leading them to two national championships. Leinart earlier played QB at Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana. In 2004, his junior year at USC, he won the Heisman Trophy. He also won the inaugural Manning Award for college quarterbacks in the same season. Anticipating his entry into the NFL, he signed with Creative Artists Agency to handle endorsements, and Leigh Steinberg to be his agent in January 2006 (although Leinart fired Steinberg three months later).

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Leinart was born with strabismus ("crossed eyes"), as his left eye was not aligned correctly with his right. He underwent surgery when he was three years old and was fitted with special glasses to correct the problem, but the eyewear combined with Leinart's already-overweight frame to make him an easy target for ridicule at the hands of other children. [1] "I used to get made fun of for being cross-eyed. It's just a terrible thing because kids are so cruel to the fat kid, to the kid with the glasses. So I turned to sports," he would later say. [2] Leinart would finally come into his own at Mater Dei High School, where he graduated as one of the most decorated high school quarterbacks in Southern California prep history. Following his standout senior season in 2000, he accepted a scholarship to USC.


Heisman Trophy Winner
Rose Bowl MVP
Walter Camp Award
AP player of the year
Touchdown Club Manning Award
Touchdown Club QB of the Year
Victor Award (Player of the Year)
Sullivan Award Finalist
AP All-American first team
Football Coaches All-American first team
ESPN, CSTV, Rivals.com, SI.com, and CFBNews first team All-American
Pac-10 Co-offensive player of the year
ESPN.com player of the year
Rivals.com player of the year
Pre-season All-American

Orange Bowl MVP
Unitas Award
Finalist for Heisman Trophy
All-American Offensive Player
LA Sports Sportsman of the Year
Sporting News Sportsman of the Year

Cosmopolitan Fun Fearless Males 2006
ESPN Hottest Male Athlete of the Year
People Magazine 100 Most Beautiful People
10th Pick in the 2006 NFL draft

College career


Leinart redshirted his first year and saw no action. As a redshirt freshman the next year, he was a backup to current Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was in his senior season at USC (one which would conclude with Palmer's Heisman victory). He appeared in a few plays his freshman year but threw no passes.


In his sophomore season, Leinart beat out Matt Cassel and former Purdue transfer Brandon Hance for the Trojan starting job at quarterback. His first career pass was a touchdown against Auburn. Leinart would win the first three games of his career before the then-No. 3 Trojans suffered a 34-31 triple-overtime defeat at California on September 27 that dropped the Trojans to No. 10.

Leinart and the Trojans bounced back the next week in one of Leinart's most famous college moments against Arizona State. Leinart injured his knee in the second quarter and was not expected to play again that day, but he returned to the game and finished 12-of-23 for 289 yards in a 37-17 victory.

Including ASU, Leinart and the Trojans reeled off victories in their final eight games to finish the season 11-1 and ranked #1 in the AP and coaches' polls (a position that had been held all season by Oklahoma before they lost their conference championship game). However, in one of the biggest controversies in college football history, USC was left out of the BCS championship game after finishing third in the BCS behind Oklahoma and LSU. The Trojans instead went to the Rose Bowl to face Michigan. Leinart was named the Rose Bowl MVP after he went 23-of-34 for 327 yards, throwing three touchdowns and catching a touchdown of his own. The Trojans claimed the AP national championship.

In 13 starts, Leinart was 255/402 for 3,556 yards and 38 TDs with 9 INTs. He finished sixth in the Heisman voting (Oklahoma quarterback Jason White won the Trophy that year).


Leinart started his junior season with his Trojans ranked No. 1. The season started with three more victories to push the USC winning streak to 12 before Leinart faced the biggest obstacle of his career to that point at Stanford on September 25. After Stanford took a 28-17 halftime lead, Leinart sparked the offense with a 51-yard reception to Steve Smith and scoring on a one-yard sneak to cut the Cardinal lead to four points. Leinart and the Trojans were able to take the lead on a LenDale White touchdown rush and hold on for the victory, 31-28. Leinart completed 24 of 30 passes.

Leinart and the Trojans completed a perfect regular season, finishing 12-0, during which Leinart threw for a career-high 400 yards against Notre Dame. He finished on a weaker note in the final regular season game against UCLA, as he was held without a touchdown pass for the first time in 25 starts. Nonetheless, Leinart was invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony, along with teammate Reggie Bush, Oklahoma's freshman sensation Adrian Peterson, incumbent Jason White, and Utah's Alex Smith. In what many had considered one of the more competitive Heisman races, Leinart became the sixth USC player to claim the Heisman trophy.

USC went wire-to-wire at #1 in the polls and earned a bid to the BCS title game at the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma, which was also 12-0 and had been on USC's tail all season. A dream matchup on paper (including White vs. Leinart, which was to be the first time two Heisman winners would play against each other), the Orange Bowl was a thumping, as Leinart threw for five touchdown passes on 18-for-35 passing and 332 yards to lead the Trojans to a 55-19 victory. Leinart received Orange Bowl MVP honors and the Trojans claimed their second straight national championship, extending their winning streak to 22 games.

Leinart's stock could not be higher at the end of the 2004 season, and many NFL analysts believed Leinart would turn pro and become a possible #1 pick in the draft. In a move that surprised many, however, Leinart held a press conference in which he declared that he would be staying at USC for his senior season to try and help the Trojans claim a third consecutive championship. With nearly the entire offense returning, the Trojans were ranked #1 again and were an overwhelming favorite to win another championship at the beginning of the 2005 season.


The Trojans' offense was powerful, statistically ranking among the greatest of all time, but Leinart and Co. began developing a habit of falling behind in the first half of their games before exploding in the second half; this was exemplified in their road games against Oregon and Arizona State. The Trojans were 5-0 before they were scheduled to meet No. 9 Notre Dame in South Bend. With the Trojans down 31-28 after Irish quarterback Brady Quinn scored with two minutes left, Leinart gave perhaps the most definitive performance of his entire college career.

After an incomplete pass and a sack led to a fourth-and-nine situation with ninety seconds left at the Trojans' own 26-yard line, Leinart called a gutsy audible at the line and threw deep against the Irish's man-to-man coverage, where Dwayne Jarrett caught the ball and raced 61 yards to the Irish' 13-yard line. Leinart moved the ball to the goal line and scored on a QB sneak (with an illegal - though never enforced - push by Reggie Bush) to give the Trojans a 34-31 lead with three seconds to go, giving the Trojans their 28th straight victory.

Aside from a home game against Fresno State, the Trojans remained relatively unchallenged for the rest of the season, running their record to another 12-0 regular season and 34 wins in a row. Leinart, who was having arguably a better season than in 2004, was again invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony along with teammate Reggie Bush and Texas quarterback Vince Young. As a former Heisman winner, Leinart cast his first-place vote for Bush and ended up third in the voting behind the winning Bush and runner-up Young.

The Trojans advanced to the Rose Bowl to face Vince Young and No. 2 Texas in the BCS title game. With 53 consecutive victories between them, the title game was considered another "dream matchup". Leinart himself had a great game, going 29-of-40 for a touchdown and 365 yards, but was vastly overshadowed by Young, who piled up 467 yards of total offense and rushed for three touchdowns, including a score with 19 seconds remaining and two-point conversion to put the Longhorns up, 41-38. The Trojans lost for the first time in 35 games, and Leinart lost for just the second time in his 39 starts. In a postgame interview, Leinart said that despite the Trojans' loss to Texas, "I still think we're a better team. They just made the plays in the end."


Leinart finished his college career 807/1245 (64.8%) for 10,693 yards and 99 touchdowns with just 23 interceptions. He is USC's all-time leader in career touchdown passes and completion percentage, and is second at USC behind Palmer in completions and yardage. He averaged nearly 8.6 yards per attempt, and averaged one interception every 54 attempts. He was 37-2 as a starter.

Player profile

Leinart was considered one of the top NFL prospects of the 2006 draft class. Standing 6'5" (1.96 m) and weighing 225 pounds (100 kg), this left-handed thrower has the prototypical size for a quarterback. And while much of his success has been predicated on the high level of talent that USC head coach Pete Carroll has surrounded Leinart with (as well as the schemes of former Trojans offensive coordinator Norm Chow), Leinart has a very accurate arm, and, perhaps more importantly, he possesses rare football intelligence along with outstanding decision-making and leadership skills.

Despite such uncanny ability in key situations, one possible area of concern regarding Leinart is his arm strength; after undergoing surgery to remove tendonitis from his throwing elbow after the 2004 season, it was believed that Leinart's arm strength would significantly improve in his senior year, but that notion only somewhat bore out. And while he has the arm and accuracy to make terrific deep throws, NFL scouts are still dubious as to whether or not he can squeeze the ball into tight spots 15-20 yards downfield, as is particularly required on "deep out" patterns.

2006 NFL Draft

By returning to USC for his senior season in 2005, Leinart probably hurt his draft position, as he most likely would have been selected with the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft (and would have probably ended up with the San Francisco 49ers). Instead, Leinart was selected tenth overall in the 2006 Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, where he will likely be mentored by former NFL MVP quarterback Kurt Warner. Leinart will wear jersey #7.

While he was taken lower than many experts predicted, he was still the second quarterback selected in the draft (Texas' Vince Young was taken third overall), and during the draft's television coverage, ESPN commentators noted that star quarterbacks such as Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger also fell in the draft before forging very successful careers. Not only that, but Leinart will be surrounded by an Arizona Cardinals team that has talent and continues to improve offensively, with Warner, Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Leinart will also be reunited with one of his fellow Trojan offensive linemen, rookie Taitusi Lutui.

Leinart is expected to backup Warner for his first season, but could take over as a starter if the Cardinals struggle.

Television Appearances

Matt Leinart made an appearance on the show Punk'd (May 1st, 2006 episode) featuring Ashton Kutcher as the host. In his appearance, Leinart was questioned by police officers who noticed him interacting with a prostitute. (All characters acting specific roles except for the oblivious Leinart).

2006 © MattLeinart.com