Matt Barkley: Original plan was to leave

LOS ANGELES -- USC quarterback Matt Barkley made waves throughout the college football world Thursday when he announced he planned to stay for his senior year and chase a national championship for the Trojans in 2012 instead of entering the NFL draft.

But it turns out he didn't always plan to stay for his senior season. In an interview on 710 ESPN's "Mason and Ireland" show Friday, Barkley said his original plan was to depart early for the NFL draft following a dramatic close to the 2011 season.

"At first, I was pretty much positive that I was leaving right after the season because I was on such an emotional high," Barkley told host Mark Willard. "I figured I was going."

"But after looking over everything -- and we gathered every fact we could to help make the decision -- I ultimately knew in my heart that I was coming back to USC."

Barkley, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior, broke a number of Trojans single-season passing records in 2011, throwing for 3,528 yards, 39 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. By the end of the year, most draft prognosticators had him projected as a top-10 selection if he were to declare for April's draft.

He did his due diligence, getting a pre-draft evaluation from the NFL and speaking to a number of current and former NFL athletes who went through the decision-making process.

In the end, he said, he didn't hear anything that "discouraged" him from going to the league. But he heard enough encouragement about the experience he'd able to have in 2012 with the Trojans if he came back to school.

"No one truly knows what I've been through and what the team's been through," Barkley told Willard. "It's so much more than just a check. I think the opportunity to come back and do something special at USC with the team that we have, but they don't know my situation.

"The money will be there."

On the topic of the money, Barkley said the dollars he would receive as a potential top-10 pick -- in the range of $15 million, probably -- were "not a priority" of his.

"I'm not discounting the fact that that's a lot of money," he said. "I certainly realize that."

But Barkley's economic situation is different than many other players who declare early. His family has the financial security to know that he'll be OK even if the worst-case scenario happens on the football field. That's what made it easier to pass up the money.

"You can't really dispute the economic impact of it and what those numbers are," Barkley's father, Les, said Thursday after Barkley's announcement. "From a pure economic perspective, the decision is go to the NFL. Anybody who says it's not has really not done the right amount of evaluation. But there are a lot of goals that he wants to attain.

"He didn't want to be left looking back and saying what could have been."

Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.