Moments after being taken by the Jets with the third overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, Sam Darnold reflected on a goal that was years in the making.
"It feels amazing. It truly is a dream come true," he told reporters in a conference call. "I'm just so happy to be a Jet and meet my teammates and my coaches here pretty soon."
While some draft pundits thought Darnold was the top overall prospect, he was still available after the Cleveland Browns elected to take Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick and the crosstown Giants followed with the selection of Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
"I know that the draft is pretty crazy and anything can happen, so I was preparing for everything," Darnold said. "At the same time, I knew I was confident in myself. With that being said, teams can do whatever they want."
The 6'4", 220-pound Darnold, who led USC to a 20-4 mark as a starter, developed good feelings for the Jets during the pre-draft process that included a visit to the team's Florham Park facility.
"I love the coaches. The front office is amazing as well and the players were great," he said. "I got to meet some of the players and they're awesome."
One of those players was Josh McCown, a 38-year-old veteran passer who will help the 20-year-old Darnold make the transition to the professional ranks.
"I know Josh McCown just because I talked with him for a little bit," Darnold said. "But training with Jordan Palmer, he played with him for a year. How Jordan talked about him — I could tell he's an amazing guy and a great leader. I'm excited to get in the same room with him and learn from him."
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A 65% passer at USC, Darnold threw for 7,229 yards with 57 touchdowns. He said his top priority this offseason was cutting down on turnovers as he was victimized by 22 interceptions and 21 fumbles in 27 starts at USC.
"Every time I take my left hand off the ball even in little drills, I cringe. It's kind of that feeling that you have to have whenever you're trying to get rid of a bad habit," he said. "It's the same thing, just trying to get rid of a bad habit and I'm just looking forward to seeing how all that training and work trying to keep the left hand on the ball has worked this offseason."
Head coach Todd Bowles said there is no timetable on when Darnold could start for the Jets. The rookie signal caller said he'll join his new team, get to work and take it from there.
"I'm going to prepare really heard every single week like I'm the starter," he said. "Whether they want me to start or not, I'm going to do what I do. I'm going to prepare really hard, play the way I play and that's pretty much all I can worry about."