The exchange stuck with Sam Darnold.
It came after the quarterback, then beginning his junior season at San Clemente High, had led the Tritons to a dramatic comeback victory over Cabrillo on a Friday night in September 2013. Darnold led the offense on a pair of scoring drives in the waning minutes, including a game-winning draw play near the goal line, a score set up by another run of 60-plus yards earlier on the same drive.
Nick Pasquale, then a walk-on receiver at UCLA, stood on the sideline, visiting his alma mater, and approached Darnold after the 35-32 win.
“He was like, ‘Dude, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to be a great player one day,” Darnold said. “And then yeah, that was basically it.”
Later that weekend, Pasquale was struck and killed by a car on Sunday, Sept. 8 during the early-morning hours. He was walking home from a friend’s house in San Clemente. He was 20 years old.
The scene replayed in Darnold’s mind throughout the following week and when people spoke glowingly about Pasquale at his funeral, with the San Clemente Presbyterian Church teeming to a point where crowds gathered outside.
“You don’t really think to tell him how much he means to you until he’s gone,” Darnold said.
His memory still lingers. Darnold, USC’s third-year sophomore quarterback, keeps a reminder. Among three bracelets wrapped around his left wrist is a red one in honor of Pasquale, whose name is printed in black letters on the wristband.
When the 87th renewal of the…