LOS ANGELES --
"You thought it would be the other way around, right?" Carroll said, referencing the commonly held belief Sanchez would return and Mays would go pro. "Well, Taylor was emotionally connected to the school differently than Mark was. He was much more comfortable here and wanted to stay here where Mark was compelled to leave. He was emotionally different than Mark. Taylor is a lot like
Walking around the sun-soaked campus with Mays as thousands of students prepare to squeeze into their new cramped quarters on move-in day, it's easy to see why. You wouldn't ask someone why he or she decided to spend an extra week in Hawaii, and this is Mays' own paradise.
There's a certain care-free simplicity to being "the big man on campus" that a million-dollar NFL contract can't buy. Mays found that out by consulting former USC players like
"I didn't really come back to walk through campus and have all the girls," Mays said with a smile. "I mean, that's cool, but I came for football."
Yes, the girls are cool, as Mays showed when he
"He's got hits for the Song Girls, he's got hits for the Spirit Leaders, he's got hits for his mom, his girlfriend, he's crazy," said senior safety
As much as Mays likes to play for the Song Girls and Spirit Leaders, he admits he's as singularly focused off the field as on. He is currently dating
Mays' demeanor when talking with friends and teammates belies the 6-foot-3, 235 pound wrecking ball that college football fans have become accustomed to seeing on Saturdays. His bone-jarring hits and knack for getting involved in every play no matter where he lines up has drawn comparisons to
The thing is, there really is no comparison. No one with Mays' size should run and move as fast as he does. Everyone on the Trojans, including speedy tailback
Turns out comparing Mays to a cat is appropriate, because some of his teammates swear they hear one when they talk to him. "His favorite word is 'meow'," said Harris. "He meows at everyone. It's funny because he'll do it anywhere, at anytime. You'll be talking and all of a sudden -- meow." During tense situations, Mays will whisper a meow in his teammates' ears. "I just like to give them a little meow," said Mays, who didn't get his catch phrase from the movie
Just like his decision to stay, instead of cashing in as a top 10 draft pick. "I had always said I was going to leave, that I was going to be a three-and-out guy, and then halfway through last season I began to think that I should stay," said Mays. "I know that a lot of people were surprised because I had the attitude that I wanted to leave. It was tough, but it's going to come soon enough." Some players receive pressure to turn pro early so they can support their families, but Taylor's father,
Not everyone was so supportive. Mays' good friend and former roommate
Cushing may have the Porsche, but Mays wants something money can't buy. He wants to earn an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, and he wants to win a national title.
"This is my last chance," Mays said. "I feel like I'm on a stage and this is my last chance to leave a lasting impression. I want to leave a final stamp on my career that everyone will remember."