Most Influential 2015: Carson Palmer

Age: 35

Job: Quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

Bio: Palmer was one of the top high school quarterbacks in county history at Santa Margarita High while growing up in Laguna Hills. At USC, he helped spark the Trojans’ return to prominence and won the Heisman Trophy in 2002. The No. 1 pick in the 2003 NFL draft – selected by the Cincinnati Bengals – is in his 13th professional season and has thrown for nearly 40,000 yards. He lives in Laguna Hills.

Why he’s an influencer: Palmer is having his best season in the NFL and playing at a level that has earned him Most Valuable Player consideration. And he is doing it all at an age conisdered ancient in his profession a year after suffering a devastating knee injury. Last week, Palmer’s Cardinal’s clinched the NFC West championship and a spot in the playoffs.

Biggest challenge: Returning from his second season-ending knee injury. “It was a long offseason,” Palmer said during a conference call. “A ton of work and a ton of strengthening and getting all the fundamentals back. Really, just a lot of work. It’s still a work in process.”

Thoughts on leadership: Veterans need to show young players that team goals matter far more than individual honors. “That’s the kind of thing that young guys get shaped by, seeing that that’s not what it’s about. It’s about the win.”

Inspiration: “You play for the respect of the guys in your locker room. You play for the respect of your opponents.”

Can’t do without: Football. His wife, Shaelyn, is pregnant with their fourth child and due in early February – right around Super Bowl 50 – but he has said he won’t miss a game to be there for the birth.

What’s next: The playoffs start in January, and Palmer’s resume has one glaring hole: He has not won a postseason game.

— Todd Harmonson

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