Although he couldn’t have anticipated some of the twists in his path, there is a full-circle element to Sean Schroeder’s arrival in Hawaii.
As a young quarterback growing up in Southern California, Schroeder naturally developed an admiration for USC’s offense as the Trojans piled up points, wins and Heisman Trophies while operating a system drawn up by then-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Norm Chow.
"It was always a dream of mine to play for Coach Chow," Schroeder said. "I’d go to USC practices when I was younger, with the Carson Palmers and Matt Leinarts, and Coach Chow has always been a genius in my eyes."
As he approached the end of a decorated prep career at Dana Hills High School, Schroeder met with Chow — who had moved on to UCLA at that point — during the recruiting process. But Schroeder decided to pursue his academic and athletic future on the other side of the country in signing with Duke.
After a redshirt year and two seasons with his action limited to practices, Schroeder swung his view far to the west, where a chance to get on the field and to finally play under Chow’s guidance beckoned.
"When I decided late last season to go through the transfer process (and) when I saw he got the head coaching job, it was something I was really interested in doing and just started that line of communication and we were able to get something done," Schroeder said.
Taking advantage of the rule allowing graduates to transfer without sitting out a season, Schroeder took his political science degree from Duke and packed up for Hawaii, joining the Warriors as a walk-on quarterback.
His audition lasted all of three days of fall camp before he was named the Warriors starter, progressing from "the new guy" to a leadership position in rapid succession.
Simply working into the fabric of the team could have been one of his main challenges, "but it hasn’t been because the guys have been so great and so welcoming here," said Schroeder, who was awarded a scholarship during fall camp.
"I can’t speak highly enough about all the guys I’ve come in contact with. This team was already close and they just welcomed me in. It’s been a really easy transition."
Coming from Duke eased the on-field transition. The Blue Devils ran a pro-style offense similar in concept to the scheme being installed by Chow, giving him an edge in the competition over the Warriors’ returning quarterbacks.
"The biggest thing was learning the new terminology," Schroeder said. "It’s come quick and I’ve been studying hard at it."
As for commanding the huddle, that’s part of the job that comes with playing quarterback most of his life, though he hasn’t done it in a game situation in a while. When Schroeder takes the field for the Warriors, it’ll be his first college playing time after spending two seasons on the sidelines as a backup at Duke.
"It’s something I’ve dreamt about my whole life, being a college quarterback," Schroeder said. "The main thing is coming out here and trying to win football games and trying to get the team to move in that one direction.
"There’s no better feeling than when you win a football game and everyone is so excited in the locker room afterward — that’s why I play the game."
While he didn’t have the chance to play much at Duke, Schroeder’s time in Durham, N.C., could end up paying off in the next leg of his career.
"The bigger adjustment was going out to North Carolina, just because it was the first time on my own coming out of high school and going to a different part of the country," Schroeder said in comparing his college transitions. "That experience allowed me to mature. So coming out here, there’s differences obviously, but I just feel more comfortable out here."