Coming off of a stellar freshman season at the University of Southern California, the hype could not be any bigger for quarterback Sam Darnold.
Darnold, a sophomore, passed for 3,086 yards and 31 touchdowns a season ago, and many see him as one of the best quarterbacks to put on a Trojans jersey ever.
Because of that, Darnold is the early-season favorite to take home the coveted Heisman Trophy. He sits at +400 odds to win it, according to OddsShark, and there’s good reason why.
Darnold looked exceptionally mature for his young age throwing out of the pocket last season, and the Trojans bring a number of high-ability weapons for him to throw to this time around as they try to build upon last year and make the playoffs.
Darnold is in a relationship with Claire Kirksey, who’s also a college student. It’s unclear exactly how long the two have been dating or how they met, but they aren’t shy about their relationship.
Here’s what you need to know about Kirksey:
1. Kirksey Attends Cal State University
While Darnold attends USC, Kirksey goes to the California State University-Long Beach, about 25 miles southeast of the USC campus.
It’s unclear from her social media profiles what Kirksey is studying at the school, but she figures to make the short trek north and be a common fixture at Trojans games throughout the 2017 season.
2. Kirksey Once Advocated to Allow Her Middle School Graduation to Take Place
Kirksey is from Huntington Beach, California and attended Dwyer Middle School. While she was in eighth grade at the school, she rallied along with other students to keep a graduation ceremony, a 90-year tradition at the school, alive.
That’s because the school decided to install solar panels along the edge of the school’s football field, which impacted the ceremony, and officials decided to change the event.
Kirksey, with the help of some parents and an “experienced” advocate, took to the streets to fight the plan, Voice of OC reported in 2011. The students refused to go back to school until a proper decision was made.
“We’ll camp out for three weeks, if that’s what it takes,” Kirksey said to the outlet. “We’re staying out of school.”
Kirksey and at least 30 other students protested outside of the school, shouting things such as “fight the power” during a school planning meeting.
Parents said they encouraged the protests so the students could learn about activism.
3. She Played Softball in High School
Kirksey attended Huntington Beach High School and played on the school’s softball team while she was there.
Before heading to high school, Kirksey was a solid youth softball player. She was selected to the All-Star team when she was 10-years old and played in various tournaments throughout the southern California area.
Kirksey’s team won second place in their division during the 2007 season.
4. Darnold & Kirksey Post Many Photos Together on Social Media
While some couples in the public eye tend to stray away from publicizing their relationships on social media, Darnold and Kirksey are quite the opposite.
Both of their respective Instagram pages are full of photos of the couple together while traveling or attending events.
In May, Darnold and Kirksey attended the Stagecoach Music Festival, which is one of California’s biggest country music festivals.
5. Kirksey is a Member of the Alphi Phi Sorority
At Cal State, Kirksey is a member of the sorority Alpha Phi.
Alphi Phi International Fraternity was founded at Syracuse University in 1872 and was one of the first-ever Greek societies for women.
“Alpha Phi is dedicated to promoting sisterhood, cultivating leadership, encouraging intellectual curiosity and advocating service,” it says on its website.
Its mission statement describes the sorority as “a sisterhood of outstanding women supporting one another in lifelong achievement.”
The chapter at Cal State was founded in 1974 and currently has 120 active members.