INDIANAPOLIS –Matt Barkley fashioned a star-studded career at one of the nation's most glamorous programs.
Barkley, 6-2, 230, started a school-record 47 games at USC, earning a 34-13 record. In hitting 1,001-of-1,562 passes for 12,327 yards with 116 touchdowns, he set 20 USC career, season and game records, 10 of which established Pac-12 records
The school's first-ever three-time captain won the 2012 Wuerffel Trophy and was a finalist for a bevy of other honors such as the Unitas Golden Arm Award, the Manning Award and the Davey O'Brien Award.
Now, it is time to turn in Saturday football for Sunday football. In doing so, there are some who ask him to account for other USC quarterbacks and their histories in the NFL.
"I don't know if you can pinpoint one thing, they've done great things," said Barkley. "There have been great USC quarterbacks (who have done) some things in the NFL. I know my case, my situation and my story is different than all those other guys. I don't think you can put everyone in the same mold. I know what I'm capable of, and I wouldn't be so quick to put a mold around me."
Barkley's fourth season as a starter ended roughly with a shoulder injury against UCLA that caused him to miss the finale against Notre Dame, a bowl game against Georgia Tech and drill work at the combine.
He revealed at the combine that his shoulder had been separated, giving observers one more thing to question.
"I think there's always something to prove," said Barkley. "I think you're always looking for ways to better yourself. At this point in my career, there's definitely things I can improve on. There's always something to improve. It seems right now that I'm kind of working my way up as opposed to already being on the top. There's always something to prove, and I'm out to prove something."
Most draft analysts say this year's quarterback class pales in comparison to the last two that have helped re-stock the starting positions for many NFL teams. Barkley just wants to play his own game.
"There's been a lot of comparisons recently to last year's rookie class and well-deserving," said Barkley. "Those guys came right away and played and made their marks. There's always going to be that comparison, whether it's just or unjust.
"I don't feel like there's any pressure on my part to live up to them. I know every situation's different. Whatever a player's going into is going to be different than what they went into last year. I don't feel there's any need to live up to what they lived up to. I have my standards, and hopefully those are high enough."
Barkley performed at his pro day on March 27, running two good 40 times. He threw into the wind, reportedly showing arm strength equivalent to Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. He also demonstrated good footwork to observers.
Barkley feels he is on track and points to his body of work as a Trojan and even before then.
"I think you look at the experience I have playing this position. If you want to count high school, I played eight years straight of football, starting games. You don't see that too often," said Barkley. "I think what I've had to endure at USC has been unique. It's not a traditional quarterback experience in college with all the ups and downs, with coaches leaving, with the NCAA sanctions, what we've had to deal with, keeping that team together. I think I possess leadership that's pretty unique, and the arm strength and athleticism that's there."
Barkley considers himself a traditional dropback quarterback who would thrive in the passing game. Barkley also believes he has the pocket moxie and speed to extend plays, though he will not be as big a threat to run as some who have entered the league lately.
He said he does not regret his decision to return to USC last year. It was a tough year, with the team going 7-6 after higher preseason projections. Still, Barkley says he would not trade his experience for anything.
"I learned a lot from this last year that you can't teach in a classroom," said Barkley. "You have to learn through experience, in regards to handling adversity at its peak, really finding the motivation to get guys going in the locker room, in the huddle, on the practice field when you're not playing for postseason.
"This year especially, with the early loss to Stanford … we weren't expecting it. It allowed me to kind of step up and be that voice when guys didn't really know where to look. You can't really teach some of that stuff. I've had to learn through experience over the years about leadership. I think I'm in a better position now than I was last year."
As for the other quarterbacks in the draft class, Barkley thinks he belongs at the front.
"I believe I am (the best in the class)," said Barkley. "I don't think you can go into the draft not thinking you are. I definitely believe I am, yes sir."
LOOKING AT THE 2013 NFL DRAFT'S QUARTERBACKS
THE LAST FIVE
The last five quarterbacks drafted by the Colts:
2012: Chandler Harnish, seventh round, Northern Illinois
2012: Andrew Luck, first round, Stanford
2009: Curtis Painter, sixth round, Purdue
2004: Jim Sorgi, sixth round, Wisconsin
1998: Peyton Manning, first round, Tennessee
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of quarterbacks expected to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft (*-denotes underclassman):
Matt Barkley, Southern Cal
Zac Dysert, Miami-Ohio
Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Collin Klein, Kansas State
E.J. Manuel, Florida State
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
Denard Robinson, Michigan
Geno Smith, West Virginia
Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.