(Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)
I was projected as a third round pick, and the thought was definitely tempting, especially because there were a lot of people telling me to leave and get out now. That the program is going downhill, and I should get out while I can. But I'm proof that players can thrive when they're given time, and I know J.T. is going to light it up next season.
I know that I'm leaving a signing bonus on the table by coming back, but I don't just play for money. I play for respect. One of my biggest motivators was that I wouldn't become the player that I was capable of, and thanks to my girlfriend, my dad, and my teammates, I think I can put that thought to rest.
But if I'm going to stay here for another season, I may as well make the most of my time here - both on and off the field. Now that I've matured, I've realized the injuries I faced earlier in my career are nothing compared to some of the struggles people face...including right here in Los Angeles.
When I started to realize that this world is bigger than just about me, and that people are actually struggling, I'm thankful I'm in the position to do something about it. Any opportunity that I get to work with the Helton Foundation and do work in the community, I'm there. Even when the kids don't know who I am, they know what this jersey represents, and they realize that maybe that dream is more attainable than they previously thought.
I think the coolest experience I had, however, was helping someone who probably had never heard of USC or watched football at all. I decided to sponsor a 16-year-old in Indonesia, and for just $43 a month, I'm able to help keep her in school and provide her with her daily needs. But I feel like I’m the biggest beneficiary, because not that long ago she sent a letter to me. It was in Indonesian, but I knew she was grateful for everything, and when I read the translated version the agency gave me, it confirmed exactly what I had thought. I can tell you that getting a letter like that makes you feel fortunate to be in the position to help.
One thing that's been on my mind is that nobody's life is more important than another's. I'm not any more important than anybody else God put on this planet. But what God did is He gave me a special talent to play football and a platform to make a difference in people's lives. And if people can see God's love in the way I treat them, then I think I've done my part.
And for all those young kids who have faced adversity in their careers, we have a saying here at USC called "Fight On". It's the name of our fight song, but I also think it's the approach God wants us to take with our adversity. So hopefully when you see me in the end zone this fall, flashing the "V" for victory, just know that I didn't get here on my own.
Michael Pittman, Jr. # 6