I have been working out with the team for almost three weeks. I have not had to make any effort to fit in with the older guys. They were aware I was coming and have been very welcoming. When I came in, I weighed 227, and within one week I was up to 235 at 5.1% body fat. Normally I follow a pretty regimented diet that doesn't include much junk food, but strength coach Chris Carlisle suggested it might be in my best interests to increase my body fat, so I am trying to eat a pizza a week.
Working out alongside Freshman All-America defensive end Shaun Cody and players like [senior All-America safety] Troy Polamalu and [senior tailback] Sultan McCullough is an inspiration. It forces me to push myself to the limit. Thus far I have not experienced the slightest bit of hazing or so-called freshman fear. I have already established myself as a formidable athlete within the group. I am, in fact, outlifting most of the team. When we tested in the bench at 225 pounds, I did 29 reps, the fourth-highest total (first for running backs) on the team, and I'm holding my own in agility drills. Most of the guys call me Super Swole because my arms are so big, they look swollen. The coaches are impressed and claim that I am the real deal behind all the hype. Another fullback, Chad Pierson, invited me to train with him, so that's another positive.
I started attending study hall and found that it helps tremendously. My classes are a lot tougher than those I took in high school, especially writing. The writing topics require much more in-depth thinking, and the papers have to be a lot longer. There have been a bunch of girls who have started coming out of the woodwork, too. Initially they didn't pay much attention to me, but as soon as I started strutting around with my football gear on, they started coming around by the dozens! (Just kidding.)
We had our first practice today. There were no coaches present, but we got a great deal of work done. [Quarterback] Carson Palmer pretty much ran everything. We ran routes and went over a couple of plays, and I got a chance to compare myself with the other fullbacks. [In addition to Hancock and Pierson, USC has three other fullbacks trying to replace three-year starter Charlie Landrigan, a free-agent signee with the Washington Redskins.] I feel pretty confident as far as my speed and hands are concerned, but we'll know more when we get the pads on in March.
Classes are becoming much harder than I had expected, and I'm having to spend a lot more time studying to get good grades. On the bright side, I'm starting to get noticed more around campus. The L.A. Daily News had a little story on me and Tom Malone, and a reporter with the school magazine interviewed me today. People I don't even know have started coming up to me and saying, "Hey, Brandon." Also, my roommate moved out. He wasn't a very sociable guy, and he flipped out after my cousin slept on the floor one night. So I have the place all to myself. I shoved the two beds together to make a king-size. Not a bad setup for a freshman!
Last week I had two seven-page papers due. The one for my writing class was one of the best I've ever written, yet I only got a B-. The teacher and I had a conference at Starbucks. She told me that had I still been in high school, the paper would have been a high A, but that I now need to take it to the college level. Still, my paper was one of the better ones in the class.
The other day the older players made me enter an auction, which was quite funny. Some of the big-time athletes were to be sold to girls for dates in a fund-raiser. I got on stage in front of about 300 people and took off my shirt and flexed for the ladies. I got a pretty nice round of applause. I was the only freshman in the auction and the only white guy. I had a blast. Someone bid $20 on me, but she hasn't called me for a date.
I had my first midterm last Wednesday, in my computer class. I got the highest grade in the class, a 96. My parents were stoked. I am also one of the points leaders in study hall; we get points for attendance and work ethic.