Every day for the entire 1994 spring semester, El Camino College health instructor John Featherstone pleaded with one of his students to try out for the football team. Featherstone was also El Camino’s head football coach. The student had been a star football and baseball player at West Torrance High.
But the student insisted he was done with sports. The previous fall he had played shortstop at USC and hadn’t enjoyed it.
“I’d say, ‘Come on out and just throw the ball.’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, coach, I just want to be a student, get a degree and figure out what I’m going to do with my life.’”
“It got to be a joke between us. I’d say, ‘Is this the day.” And he’d say, ‘No coach, not today.’”
“Finally, it was the last week of spring practice. I caught Stevie after class. I said, ‘Stevie, this is the last week. Just come out for one day.’ He said, ‘Okay coach, I’ll come out for one day.’”
“As soon as he walked on the field I threw a football to him. He threw it back, a perfect spiral, of course,” Featherstone recalled.
“After 15 minutes of passing the ball back and forth I asked him, ‘How does it feel?’ I saw the look in his eyes. ‘He said, coach, I can’t tell you how great this feels.’”
The reluctant quarterback was Steve Sarkisian. On Monday, USC named Sarkisian its head football coach.
During his two seasons with Featherstone, Sarkisian set every quarterback record in the history of El Camino, a school that has had more All American quarterbacks than any other community college in the country. Sarkisian’s records include most touchdowns thrown in a season (42) and most touchdowns in a career (62). He passed for 645 yards in one game. He also set a national junior college record by completing 72.4 percent of his passes and earned All American honors.
Sarkisian went on to a similar record setting career at Brigham Young University under coach Norm Chow.
After graduating from Brigham Young Sarkisian returned to El Camino as Featherstone’s quarterback coach.
One year later Pete Carroll was named head coach at USC and hired Norm Chow as his offensive coach.
Then Featherstone got calls from Carroll and Chow. They wanted Featherstone’s opinion of his young quarterback coach.
“I told them, ‘If you want Stevie, take him. He’s ready,’’’ Featherstone said.
Sarkisian proved worthy of the confidence Featherstone showed in him by helping USC produce two Heisman Trophy winners — Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. That led to the head coaching job at Washington University and last week to one of the most prestigious coaching positions in collegiate sports.
Featherstone said his happiness for his former health class student is tempered by the disappointment he feels for Ed Orgeron, another close coaching friend.
Orgeron took over mid season as USC’s interim coach and was a candidate for the job given to Sarkisian.
“My hat’s off to Eddie for what he did in the last seven games,” Featherstone said.
“But that’s football. It’s not like the old days when athletic directors gave you six or seven years to build a program.
“Stevie worked hard for that position and Eddie will get snapped up. ” ER