Are You Ready for Your Close-Up Mr. Leinart? (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday July 17, 2007 12:42PM; Updated: Thursday July 26, 2007 11:57AM
Winners of one playoff game since 1947, the Cards have remained a laughingstock in the age of parity. Yet Leinart regards raising Arizona as a plausible story line. "I'm so excited about this season," he says. "I know I've got to get better at a lot of things, but I'm so much more comfortable. I think the guys have responded to me, and we have high expectations. We know we can win."
Here's something else Leinart knows, and he learned it the hard way: When you're in the limelight, the glare doesn't fade when the game ends. Starting in the fall of 2005, as the reigning Heisman winner and national champion quarterback who chose to return for his senior year at USC -- not to mention playing in L.A. for what amounted to the city's de facto pro football team -- Leinart experienced a level of scrutiny to which few college athletes can relate. And the tabloid-style treatment has only intensified, from suggestive cellphone photos at a New York City club, to rumors of a romance with Paris Hilton, to the BREAKING NEWS tag on a cable-channel ticker announcing that his former girlfriend, Trojans basketball player Brynn Cameron, was pregnant with his child.
Earlier this month, at a dormitory complex across from the UC Santa Barbara campus in Goleta, Calif., Leinart was besieged once again. This time he was fielding questions from an audience of more than 200 kids, who were attending the first Matt Leinart Football Camp, though some of those who raised their hands seemed better suited for the first Ted Koppel Interview Camp.
What NFL player do you hate the most?
"Uh, wow, that's a tough one....Anyone who went to UCLA."
How did it feel losing to Texas in the Rose Bowl?
"It felt pretty bad." (The rest of his answer was drowned out by boos from other campers.)
What went wrong in the Bears game?
"We didn't know how to finish them."