USC linebacker Cameron Smith on Browning: "I love watching him play. He has some of the best instincts out there. Watching him sling the rock is always impressive."
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Since they were 8-year-olds playing youth football in the Sacramento area, Jake Browning and Cameron Smith have long been rivals.
Smith was the star linebacker at Granite Bay High School. As a sophomore in 2012, he had 196 tackles to help Granite Bay win a California state championship.
Two years later, as a senior, Browning led Folsom High to a 63-0 victory over Smith’s Granite Bay team. Folsom would finish that 2014 season a perfect 16-0, winning a state championship of their own while Browning threw a national prep record 91 touchdown passes.
Their rivalry has continued in the Pac-12. In 2015, Browning started for Washington as a true freshman; the same year, Smith started at linebacker as a true freshman for USC.
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They didn’t have an especially close relationship in high school, but they’ve gotten to know each other this week while representing their schools at Pac-12 media days.
“It’s cool,” Smith said Thursday. “I got to hang out with Jake the past few days here I didn’t know him that well in high school. We had a rivalry that was built up. He’s a great guy. I love watching him play. He has some of the best instincts out there. Watching him sling the rock is always impressive. I’m excited for him and what he’s got in store this season.”
One of Smith’s roommates is USC quarterback Sam Darnold, the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. In Los Angeles, much the buildup to the college football season has centered on Darnold and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
Browning, sixth in the Heisman voting last year, was asked Wednesday about the excitement surrounding the two L.A. quarterbacks.
“I mean, I’m not down here, so I couldn’t tell you, but people are pretty psyched about football in Seattle, too,” he said. “I’m from California too and I didn’t realize how much it was like that in Seattle and what the atmosphere was like. Because I know California guys, we like to think we have the best of everything, but there’s some pretty good things in Seattle too.”