BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Before Centennial coach Bryan Nixon picked up the receiver to call Washington's coaches to tell them that Cody Kessler wanted to commit, Nixon wanted to ask his star quarterback one final question.
Was there any team out there that might make you think twice?
Then the phone rang in Nixon's office. It was Southern Cal quarterbacks coach Clay Helton to say the Trojans wanted to offer. Talk about good timing. Kessler took it as a sign.
"Right before (Nixon) started to dial, the phone rings and I said, 'Who is it?' and he said he said, 'Coach Helton,'" Kessler said. "He picks it up and starts talking to him and coach said (Helton) wanted to talk to me so I called him back a little bit later and we started talking and he said, 'We want to offer you.'"
"At that point I was like what am I going to do? I had no idea. I hung up the phone and told coach that we needed to start over."
Kessler verbally committed to the Trojans Wednesday at a news conference held at The Edge training center, surrounded by family and friends including his 11-year-old brother, Dylan, the first to know Kessler's intentions.
A visit to USC last week was the last step before committing. Kessler told his brother minutes after leaving campus that it was going to be the Trojans.
"I went down there on Friday and when I went down I saw it and that kind of sealed it," Kessler said. "I saw everything, I hung out with coach (Lane) Kiffin, coach Helton, coach Monte Kiffin all day.
"We were there for six hours, went through everything, talked about everything and I was home. I told Dylan this is where I want to go, I know it. He was excited because that was his No. 1 choice. He's the person I trust the most so I knew I could tell him."
The last few weeks have been an extraordinary journey for Kessler, who emerged nationally after arguably being the best quarterback at the USC Rising Stars Camp last summer.
There was the near commitment to Washington. Then the USC offer came in - the timing of which Kessler said was almost like a sign from God. Then UCLA offered the same day. Later that evening, he was the top quarterback at the EA Sports Elite 11 Quarterback Camp at Cal. Before the camp ended he was also invited to the U.S. Army All-American Game.
All worthy accomplishments, Nixon said, since Kessler, who threw for 2,195 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 12 scores last season, is one of the best to ever come through the Centennial halls.
"He's a fierce competitor, he's a great leader, he started to manage the game really well toward the end of his junior year and he just showed a lot of his attributes," Nixon said. "He's probably the most accurate quarterback I've ever been around.
"He definitely has a strong arm and he can make all the throws. He has touch when he needs to have touch and he can put the ball in there when he needs to. He throws a very nice deep ball so he has the total package."
If those circumstances weren't enough a few weeks ago, Kessler then had to return home and consider his new options.
Should he stick with Washington where he had grown close to the coaching staff and liked his future possibilities? What should he make of Southern Cal, which already had a commitment from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek?
After days of contemplation, after talking it over with Nixon, his family, his friends and others close to him - one night spending nearly six hours at Nixon's house reviewing it all - it became apparent that the Trojans were his team. Friday's visit patched up any loose ends and he was ready to commit.
"I've been talking to (USC) for a long time," Kessler said. "Helton's first day in there he called coach Nixon and said, 'I saw your kid's tape and I love him.' I guess they've seen Wittek for a while because he's right down there at Mater Dei, but (Helton) said, 'We're going to take two and we're going to start over and go for the next guy.'
"Coach Helton and I are really close, and he always told me, 'Hey, look at all these great names you're going to associate yourself with. Look where they are all now, they're all in the league, they're all playing in the NFL, they're playing on Sundays.'"
Of all the USC quarterback greats, Lane Kiffin reportedly told Kessler he is a "spitting image" of Mark Sanchez because of his athleticism mixed with his throwing ability. Sanchez is playing on Sundays, a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets, and playing in the NFL has always been Kessler's wish.
"That's definitely a big thing for me and that's my dream," Kessler said. "I want to get an education but that's my dream, to play in the NFL. Their track record, that's probably the best opportunity. Washington was also a great opportunity. You can't go wrong. Both schools are awesome. It just came down to what felt better, what felt like home and that was SC."
That USC already had a quarterback commit in its 2011 class didn't bother Kessler one bit. Kessler said he told Helton he didn't care if the Trojans signed 10 quarterbacks, that he just wanted a shot to prove himself.
That's why he plans to enroll early. That's why he always played against the older kids. That's why USC seems like a perfect fit, like home. That's why the past couple weeks have been so mind-boggling and hectic. Recruiting can be like that sometimes but Kessler kept his poise, made his decision and is only looking forward. He's looking to become the next big thing at USC.
"You never know what's going to happen," Kessler said. "You never know who's going to offer. I was never really looking at USC that much. We had a really close relationship but I didn't know they were going to take two. When they offered and they said, 'We want you, we don't want to lose you, we want you to come,' that threw everything off."