Jeremy Galten is going to try hard to play it cool on Saturday afternoon. But despite his best efforts, it’s going to be difficult to avoid having a few goosebump moments.
That’s what taking the field in front of roughly 80,000 people at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first time as a member of the University of Southern California football team will do to a player. Did we mention that the 12:30 p.m. season opener against Minnesota will be on national TV?
“It’s surreal – that’s kind of how I’m thinking about it,” said Galten, a junior offensive lineman who transferred to USC after starring at College of San Mateo the last two years. “It’s a bigger stage than I’ve ever been on, and it’s really exciting.”
Galten knows he’ll need to quickly gather his composure. With the opener just a few days away, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Hillsdale High School alum will start at left guard for the No. 25 Trojans.
With would-be starter Abe Markowitz nursing a foot injury, Galten took the first-team reps on Tuesday for the second straight practice. USC head coach Lane Kiffin has yet to announce a final decision on a position that has had four players vying for the starting role.
In fall camp alone, Galten showed he can be a versatile asset. The 6-foot-5, 290-pounder began training at right and left guard. But then he switched to right tackle, where he was listed as second string late last week. In the spring, Galten took the first-team reps at right tackle when starter Kevin Graf was injured.
“I honestly have no idea,” Galten recently said of his projected role. “It’s not really up to me. All that’s up to me is to keep getting better every day, and things will sort out themselves.”
USC offensive line coach James Cregg has been impressed with Galten’s transition from the junior college game.
“He's a tough kid and battling day in and day out,” Cregg said. “I really like his toughness and like how he handles the business of going to work. I think he's a blue-collar guy, and I like where he's been going in his development.”
Asked what the biggest adjustment to USC has been, Galten quickly said, “The playbook.”
“It’s just a lot more complex here than it was ever before in my football career. At CSM, we ran Option Right, Option Left. Here, it seems limitless,” said Galten, a two-time All-NorCal Conference first-teamer at CSM. “Different plays, different tags. We study a lot of film. You’ve got to be really diligent and take the time to know what you have to do on every play.”
After playing left guard at CSM, Galten was recruited more as a tackle by the Trojans. He has welcomed the challenge of learning to play on the outside and needing to protect a lot more room.
“The athletes are a lot different,” he added, speaking of the defensive players he opposes when playing tackle. “They’re a lot quicker and faster, as opposed to defensive tackles having brute strength.”
Galten, who is majoring in international relations, also figures to see plenty of time this year on special teams. He’s been practicing on the kickoff return, field goal, field goal block and punt units.
After months of grueling workouts and mental preparation, Galten can’t wait for his USC career to finally begin on Saturday.
“Just to have the seats filled, that’s going to be an experience,” said Galten, who will return to the Bay Area when the Trojans play Cal at AT&T Park on Oct. 13. “It’s definitely really cool. There were more people at the spring game than I’ve played in front of in my life. It’s big time.”