James Toland IV is going to be a Trojan.
The Shadow Hills High School running back who rushed for a staggering 2,649 yards and 39 touchdowns last fall has accepted an offer to join the USC football team as a preferred walk-on where he will compete for a spot on the 66-man roster this season.
"I've been a USC fan since I was 8 years old," Toland said. "So this is a dream come true for me. I'm going to make the most of it."
USC initially made contact the day following graduation on May 23 when offensive line coach James Cregg reached out to Knights head coach Ron Shipley, wondering why a kid with such impressive numbers had not signed.
In just its third year having varsity football, Shadow Hills has not yet made a name in even Southern California recruiting circles. Toland had previously drawn a verbal scholarship offer from Pittsburgh, but it was the only offer from a major Division I school, and that offer fell apart before Toland made an official visit.
"Toward the end of the year, I was getting a little anxious waiting," Toland said. "When I started getting noticed a little, I thought it would pick up, more colleges would see me."
With NCAA sanctioned scholarship reductions again this year, USC has had to get creative in finding ways to attract talent. Whether that will help Toland see the field remains unclear, but his mother, Salina, said much of his tuition is being paid for through academic grants and scholarships.
Toland is not eligible to redshirt this year, so it's possible that he could get reps behind incumbent starter Silas Redd.
Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin singled Toland out at a USC football camp last summer when he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. But because Toland played solely in the defensive secondary during the camp, his skills as a running back went unnoticed.
The payoff came when the USC staff saw what he can do with the ball as they watched his highlight film and made a commitment to him this week.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time," Toland said.