LOS ANGELES -- Southern California catcher Robert Stock was only 16 when he arrived on campus nine months ago. Knocking around Troy without a driver's license was much more of a struggle than getting into school without a diploma.
"I actually didn't graduate high school," Stock said sheepishly. "I didn't have to graduate."
Not at USC. Stock skipped his entire senior year of high school, admitted early under the school's Resident Honors Program. Only 30 or so advanced students make it through the screening process each year.
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His goal is still to play major league baseball, but it's also to earn a couple of degrees. Stock more than satisfied NCAA and USC admission standards. The school was proud to admit him when they saw his 4.0 high school GPA and 2,000 on the SAT.
"And he's paying his own way," coach Chad Kreuter said. "We didn't have any scholarships for him."
What could be better than smart, talented -- and cheap -- athletes lining up to play for you? Pete Carroll is not the only one outsmarting those around him. Stock's story highlights one of the most aggressive athletic departments, and schools, in the country.
Stock is one of three current Trojans who have skipped their senior high school year to enroll early. John David Booty will be a Heisman frontrunner and senior starter at quarterback this season. Daniel Hackett started 16 games at guard for basketball coach Tim Floyd as a freshman, finishing second in assists. Stock was less spectacular, batting .253 with four homers as a freshman, as well as going 2-2 with 4.53 ERA as a pitcher.
|John David Booty waited his turn at powerhouse USC before starting. (US Presswire)|
"It is a non-traditional path but it has paid dividends for him," said associate AD and education professor Brandon Wright, a liaison between the athletic department and admissions office. "I wouldn't recommend it for every kid. When I first met the kid, he just came across as being beyond his years."
Carroll set the tone for the young and restless. He has played more than 40 true freshmen over the past four years.
"They're not afraid to compete," Steve Sarkisian said. "They don't care what the depth chart looks like. They don't care how many guys are at their position. They believe in themselves and that they want to compete."
Carroll's offensive coordinator was talking about football players, but he might as well had been talking about a USC ethic.