Behind the pledge: Max Browne

USC won’t be making lemons out of lemonade with its latest quarterback addition.

Max Browne carries a 98 rating from 247Sports as one of 13 five-star prospects in the country.

Rather, an early lunch over at local restaurant hot spot Lemonade got the ball rolling for the Trojans to land the furthest thing from a lemon this recruiting cycle.

Skyline (Wash.)’s Max Browne (6-5, 210), rated the nation’s top quarterback and No. 5 prospect overall by 247Sports, committed to USC on Wednesday night.

In this one-on-one interview, Browne sheds light on his three-day trip to Los Angeles last weekend and what ultimately led him to go ahead and make his decision:

Q: So, when did you know USC was the school for you?

It was kind of funny. I had kind of been given advice by a few other coaches, saying you’ll know when you know. On my second day of the trip there, I was walking up the escalator and right in front of me was a rack of toddler-sized Joe McKnight jerseys, and my niece was with me. They were No. 4 jerseys, and I wear No. 4. It was kind of like, this is a sign this is where I need to be. This is it.

But seriously, after the visit, I really sat down with my parents and talked it over. And all the stuff with SC, I couldn’t go wrong. It was a perfect fit for me.

Q: Did your niece end up with one of those jerseys before the trip was over?

I’m sure she will soon. But I have to see if I can wear that number.

Lane Kiffin told Browne he would join the line of great quarterbacks at USC, most recently including Matt Barkley (7).

Q: Was USC leading heading into the weekend, or where did things stand?

It was tied, 50-50, between Oklahoma and USC. I really liked my visit to Oklahoma and my relationship with the coaches, and their system. So I really wish them nothing but the best.

But when I got to SC, I really got to experience three full days of what it would be like to be a Trojan. Starting with the lunch with Matt Barkley, the player meetings, the practice, I just really liked what I would be getting myself into as a player and as a student.

Q: Take us through that lunch with Matt. Sounds like it was pretty influential.

I got there Thursday morning and we went through some academic stuff. Then when lunch time rolled around, we went out with Matt. And it was really cool. I kind of hate making a huge deal about it because he wouldn’t want me to do it. That’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s really laid-back, and it was almost like we had known each other our whole life. It was just a real easy conversation.

It really showed the character and the people USC has to offer. You’re going to make connections that will stay with you the rest of your life, and it was a special experience.

Q: Our sense was always that you put a premium on choosing a school where you could be more student than celebrity, and that USC – while you’d certainly be in a high-profile spot – would still allow you to slip into the background a bit.

Exactly. And in some senses, that’s kind of how my high school is. We have so many star athletes, even outside of football. But USC was the perfect place for me in that regard. I’m going to go there and get a great education and, for many parts of my life, just be a normal student there. The city of Los Angeles has a lot going on, but they sure do love their Trojans.

Q: What stood out about your time with Lane Kiffin?

My trip ended with an hour-and-a-half meeting with him that really summed things up. That was when I felt this really could be something special.

He told me, “Max, obviously I’m biased, but I would really love to have you come to SC. I just think it’s a perfect scenario for a quarterback. You would come here and be in a line of great quarterbacks and have an opportunity to compete to be the starting quarterback, but nothing’s given to you here.”

“You’re going to get a private school education, and it’s the best combination of academics and football in the country.”

For me, I think he knew Oklahoma was a school I was looking at, so he kind of pushed the West Coast deal. But it’s exciting, and my brother (Mitch, who works for Yahoo) is 20 minutes away, which wasn’t a huge deal. But when I’m down there, I will realize how special it is.

Q: Imagine, being a West Coast guy, that you can’t help be influenced by USC’s quarterback pipeline?

Definitely. I grew up here in Seattle where there are a lot of UW fans, and that’s a great school with a lot of promise.

But inside every kid on the West Coast, especially my age, probably grew up with some kind of dream of being an SC quarterback – especially watching all those guys on their championship and Rose Bowl runs.

I’ve played SC in the video games before, and I remember watching the Nelson Agholor video last year and thinking it’s a dream come true. Maybe I was always meant to be a Trojan, but very excited it finally came true.

Q: Did it matter that you go from running a spread to a pro-style offense?

I’m excited about the pro-style. The ability to be under coach Kiffin, and the offensive line doesn’t allow the quarterback to get him much under coach (James) Cregg. They do a great job with that system, and there’s a lot of NFL experience on that staff. So they’re really running a well-oiled machine.

Q: The expectation obviously becomes that you vie to replace Barkley. You filled some big shoes as a high school sophomore upon inheriting the Skyline starting job from Jake Heaps, who was highly touted at the time. What do you take, or did you learn, from that situation that can be applied this time?

That’s a great question. I had the opportunity to replace the No. 1 quarterback in high school, and I guess in college I’ll have the opportunity to replace the No. 1 guy coming out of college.

It’s a great opportunity, but I guess the one thing I’ve learned is just be who you are as a quarterback. Don’t try to be the guy in front of you. Do what you do best, play your game, be smart and make good decisions.

The biggest thing at Skyline was, I had good talent around me. And that’s something at USC that you’re going to have. You’re going to have guys like Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, some great tight ends and running backs. So just get the ball into the playmakers’ hands.

Q: What’s next for you? How much work is it to try to graduate early for early enrollment?

I’m going down to the Elite 11 qualifier in Oakland in May. My aunt lives down there.

I do plan to graduate early in 2013, so I’m taking extra classes to get that covered, and I’ll take more in the summer.

Everyone kind of throws around the term graduating early, but I know firsthand now how much work that is. I’m taking eight classes right now – an extra P.E. class, which isn’t bad, and an extra math class. So it’s not horrible, and it’s definitely worth it. But I definitely have a respect for all the guys who have gone through this process.

Q: One of the reasons you went ahead and committed was to start help building the Trojans’ recruiting class. How much have you already done in that regard the first 24 hours as a pledge?

I’ve talked to Michael Hutchings a little bit, the star linebacker out of De La Salle. But we had been talking a bit before I committed. So I’m getting to know him pretty well.

I met Su’a Cravens for the first time at the junior day. I’m sure I’ll be recruiting him this coming week (laughs). I’ll be on spring break, so I’m sure I’ll be reaching out to some guys on some California guys as well as some national guys.

We’ll try to bring them down to Los Angeles and join the Trojans.

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