With Caleb Williams being a near-lock to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, it is worth noting the USC Heisman winner whose season most closely parallels Williams’ journey: Carson Palmer.
If you think about it, the 2022 and 2002 USC seasons have a lot in common. We noted this in our November coverage of the Trojans.
You could see this coming, too: As soon as USC beat Arizona on Oct. 29, the Trojans knew they would stay home for the full month of November. If they won every game in Los Angeles, they would play for the Pac-12 title.
USC did win every game it played in Los Angeles. Caleb Williams played brilliantly against Notre Dame in prime time on national television. USC went to a big bowl game. The Trojans restored the program after years of drift.
Carson Palmer, in Pete Carroll’s restorative 2002 season which launched the USC dynasty, smoked the Fighting Irish in L.A. in prime time to seal his Heisman 20 years ago.
Palmer in 2002. Caleb in 2022. The parallels are there.
Let’s look back at Carson Palmer’s USC Heisman story and his Trojan career:
LOS ANGELES, CA – NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the University of Southern California celebrates after defeating Notre Dame 44-13 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 30, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Carson Palmer became USC’s fifth Heisman winner after winning the award in 2002.
21-YEAR DROUGHT, ENDED
Marcus Allen of the USC Trojans, poses with the coveted Heisman Trophy awarded to him at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York, Dec. 6, 1981. Allen, 21, who traversed more football turf than any other player in college football history, was the 47th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
Palmer was also the first Trojans player to win the award since 1981.
BEFORE THE HEISMAN
26 Sep 1998: Quarterback Carson Palmer #15 of the USC Trojans in action during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at the Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Trojans 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran
Palmer started the final five games for the Trojans and finished with 1,755 passing yards and seven touchdowns in his first year in L.A.
LOS ANGELES – NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the University of Southern California Trojans attempts to pass against the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 30, 2002 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 44-13. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Carson Palmer finished his Heisman season with 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns as the Trojans finished 10-2 and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl.
ORANGE BOWL WIN
MIAMI – JANUARY 2: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of USC throws to Alex Holmes #81 against Iowa during the FedEx Orange Bowl at Pro Player Stadium on January 2, 2003 in Miami, Florida. The USC Trojans defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 38-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Palmer was the MVP of the Orange Bowl as USC finished ranked No. 4, the highest such ranking since 1979 for USC. The Trojans finished No. 2 at the end of that season.
NO. 1 PICK
Sep 26, 2004; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback #9 Carson Palmer. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brett Hansbauer-USA TODAY Sports (c) 2004 by Brett Hansbauer
Nov 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
SEPTEMBER 26, 2010: Bengals Chad Ochocinco and Carson Palmer celebrate a complete pass during the first half against the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
Carson Palmer was the first overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent time with the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals as well.
Nov 25, 2000; Los Angeles, CA, USA: FILE PHOTO; Southern California Trojans quarterback Carson Palmer (3) in action against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2000 season at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Long Photography-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Palmer broke his collarbone in his sophomore season and missed the majority of the year.
PASADENA, CA – NOVEMBER 23: Carson Palmer #3 throws a pass behind the block of Justin Fargas #25 against UCLA on November 23, 2002 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. USC won 52-21. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Carson Palmer played basketball and football during his time at Rancho Santa Margarita High School.
LOS ANGELES – SEPTEMBER 2: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the USC Trojans looks to handoff to teammate tailback Sultan McCullough #4 against the Auburn Tigers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on September 2, 2002 in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Auburn 24-17. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
In his final high school year, Palmer threw for 2,685 yards and 31 touchdowns en route to a second straight state title.
Palmer threw for
LOS ANGELES – SEPTEMBER 2: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the USC Trojans calls the signals under center against the Auburn Tigers during the game on September 2, 2002 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. USC defeated Auburn 24-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
19 touchdowns in the final six games of his Heisman-winning season.
USC quarterback Carson Palmer poses with the Heisman Trophy after winning the award at The Yale Club in New York Saturday, Dec. 14, 2002. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
FINAL USC GAME
MIAMI – JANUARY 2: Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of USC, who was named MVP of the game, celebrates the victory over Iowa after the FedEx Orange Bowl on January 2, 2003 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. USC defeated Iowa 38-17. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
CATCHING UP WITH FRIENDS
July 30, 2012; Napa, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) (left) and quarterback Matt Leinart (7) stretch during training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports