Imagine walking into a college football locker room and making an immediate impact as the new kid on the block. Especially at talent-rich places like USC, some freshman hit the field on special teams, some work hard enough to gather some occasional reps or even have the undeniable talent to start right away.
But taking those individual gifts one step further --say into the Heisman Trophy, Individual Positional Award, All-American Campaign-- can transform a freshman season into something worth talking about 40, 50 or even 60 years down the road.
Sure Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy as redshirt freshman, something that had never been done before, but those valiant efforts span just the quarterback position alone. Imagine the possibilities in a full roster positional breakdown. So to peak our curiosity, Mike Huguenin of NFL.com wonderfully crafted the all-time All-Freshman team in college football history from top to bottom.
The entire 28-man breakdown highlights players across all decades and positions, but take special notice to the strong infusion of Trojan talent on the offensive side of the ball especially on the (at the time) young offensive line. USC and Oklahoma led all schools with three selections on the list, which features some pretty special rookie campaigns.
WR Mike Williams
Buzz: Williams, a Tampa native, went cross country to play for the Trojans, and he made it pay off. He had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and 14 TDs. He had at least six receptions in nine games and had five 100-yard outings and three more with at least 90 yards; he was Heisman winner Carson Palmer's favorite receiver.
OT Tony Boselli
Buzz: He was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a true freshman in 1991, the first of three times he was so honored. He also won USC's Offensive Player of the Year Award in 1991, when he played the most minutes of anyone on the team. Flash forward nearly 25 years later, and Boselli has been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
G Brad Budde
Buzz: In the 1970s, USC pumped out big-time offensive linemen like Detroit used to pump out cars. Budde might have been the Trojans' best lineman that decade; at the least, he was the best interior lineman. He was the first freshman to start a USC season opener since the days of World War I and was an important cog on an offensive line that helped the Trojans to a No. 2 national ranking in '76.
OBJECTIONS YOUR HONOR
While we completely agree with the three USC selections, I can think of some Trojan campaigns that certainly deserved praise for their outstanding efforts but did not crack the impressive list. If we missed some great Freshman Year performances, please feel free to throw them in the comments section and we can let the arguments run wild.
Believe it or not, the freshman All-Pac-12 display from Andre Heidari back in 2011 was strong enough to curtail an argument against UCLA's record-setting 2007 season from Kai Forbath. Heidari's field goal percentage (88.2%, 15-17) was best of all freshman kickers that season, and more importantly, he nailed four out of five kicks over 40 yards. While Heidari does not have the long-distance pedigree of Forbath, who notched five FG's of 50-plus yards, nor the amount of kicks in one season, the Trojan kicker pinned opposing teams inside the 20 yard line on his kickoffs at a much higher rate.
It would also be worth noting that in 1972, Richard Wood was named an All-American and All-Conference Performer on one of the best teams in college football history. Beginning his span of three-straight All-American campaigns, "Batman" led the 12-0 Trojans to impressive wins over No. 3 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, No. 4 Arkansas, Michigan State, Illinois and No. 18 Washington in his freshman year. But what might be most memorable was the "Player of the Game" performance Wood put together against No. 14 UCLA to secure the Trojans berth in the Rose Bowl.