Negrete on his long-awaited scholarship

LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Negrete watches "SportsCenter." He saw how Vanderbilt coach James Franklin handed walk-on fullback Marc Panu a scholarship in front of all of his teammates. As a fellow walk-on, he felt for the guy, too. But the USC Trojans punter didn't dream of an experience like that for himself.

He got his scholarship in a different fashion.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin was talking to his team at the conclusion of Sunday's practice and providing reminders for upcoming days and events. All of the team's scholarship players had to be on campus at 9 a.m. the next day to get their textbooks for the upcoming semester, set to begin that day.

Then, in an aside, Kiffin added: "Negrete, make sure you don't pay for your books this year."

Negrete didn't realize what that meant right away -- not until center Khaled Holmes looked over to him, grinned wide and said, "Congratulations!"

Then he got it: He was on scholarship.

Kiffin said nothing more about it. Most of the players didn't even realize what happened. When they got back to the locker room, they saw Matt Barkley's tweet and asked Negrete about it.

Then the congratulations came pouring in, in person and online, via Facebook and Twitter. Negrete's phone was officially blowing up.

Now, three days afterward, he still can't decide what was better about Sunday's events: his status as an official scholarship athlete for one of the top football programs in the country, or the fact that his dad won't have to write a series of checks for almost $60,000 this year.

"I think they both kind of go hand-in-hand," he said. "Obviously it's an unbelievable honor to say you're a scholarship athlete at the University of Southern California, but then I can also say it's an incredibly special moment to look in my dad's eyes and tell him, 'We did it.'"

Kiffin later told Negrete that he didn't understand why his teammates didn't celebrate the news, and Negrete informed his coach that they didn't understand what he was saying.

But all was cleared up, and Negrete has his books now, too. He's taking his final three undergrad classes this semester and will finish his degree in business administration in December. He'll begin work on his MBA in January, still on scholarship, and plans to use a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship he recently won to continue taking classes.

Negrete punted all of last season for the Trojans without a scholarship. It was the first time since punter Greg Woidneck in 2006 that USC used a walk-on kicker or punter for a full season.