One of the things symbolic of our annual clash with UCLA is that it also signals the end of the road for our departing seniors. Last year it was our game against Arizona.
These are guys that have been with the program four to five years and have seen it all. From being the new kids on the block all the way up to being seasoned veterans in leadership roles.
Every player has different experiences.
Be it a Kristofer O'Dowd who was thrust into a position of responsibility from the moment he arrived or a CJ Gable who saw a lot of action in the beginning of his USC career only to practically disappear as time went on.
There were no guarantees...no matter how good you were rated or how many stars there were behind you name production on the field was usually the only thing that defined these guys playing career. And with all the attention placed on the program during 'SC's run that was one heck of a microscope to be under.
No matter how frustrated we may get when things don't go the way we want when our guys don't perform to our expectations they are still our guys...They will always be Trojans, they will always be a part of something special.
There is no bowl game to cap of their career.
These seniors have been more accustomed to closing out seasons in the Rose Bowl game against a Big Ten opponent on New Year's Day than merely finishing at the Rose Bowl because that's the final regular-season destination listed on the pocket schedule.But the seniors on the Trojans (7-5, 4-4) all knew, perhaps even secretly feared, that everything in this first season of paying the price for Reggie Bush's professionalism could end with this disappointment. They are unranked, underperforming, under the radar and on the road for a virtually meaningless contest against their crosstown rival UCLA Bruins (4-7, 2-6), who won't be playing in a postseason for less understandable reasons.
This is a crappy way to go out...
There may be a Senior Bowl or some other showcase game for our departing seniors to show the NFL what they've got but for many this is the end of the line.
USC's seniors deserve more than the anticlimactic end they're getting, losers in their past two games, banged up, blown out by Oregon State and beaten this past Saturday by Notre Dame for the first time since 2001.All the seniors should get respect and gratitude, from the lesser-known Trojans walk-ons of cornerback Omari Crittenden and long snapper Jeff Serrano to the more visible starters and potentially NFL-bound players in wide receiver Ronald Johnson, fullback Stanley Havili and cornerback Shareece Wright.
These guys deserve better.
I am not a fan of Smith's writing but she is dead on in her views here.
All of these guys played under the cloud of the Reggie Bush scandal. None of them had any idea how it would it all turn out but most of them stayed the course, choosing not to let something that they had no control over affect their time at USC. They also handled the high expectations that USC's incredible run produced and the sudden change in course the program took in 2009.
Many of them avoided the temptation to transfer out when the NCAA opened the doors.
They hung in there to finish what they deemed to be important...finishing out their career as a USC Trojan.
That is why I can't be upset at a Ronald Johnson for last Saturday's missed opportunity to beat Notre Dame. He went through so much growing up, took a huge risk coming west to 'SC and made the most of it as he worked his way up the ranks on the team.
USC receiver Ronald Johnson looks forward to Saturday night's game against UCLA because it marks his final opportunity to play for the Trojans and another chance to beat the Bruins.
Johnson dropped a certain touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of USC's 20-16 loss to Notre Dame, and then spent a long weekend reliving it.
"I should have caught the ball. I should have made the play," he said. "Unfortunately I didn't, and next time I will."
Coaches, teammates and friends offered Johnson encouragement, telling the Michigan native that one play did not define his career.
Sure, we will all remember Saturday's disappointment of that dropped pass but I will always remember RoJo's game against Penn St. in the Rose Bowl.
I think RoJo has done us pretty well...
Johnson is one of the many moving on, but he is one our leaders. We all know about the struggles of Bradford and Gable.
We also see how not staying focused can affect a players future, Shareece Wright is a prime example. Wright had so much promise two years ago. Then he became academically ineligible...and that was on top of missing a number of games because of a legal issue. Developing in practice is no substitute for real game experience.
I could go on...
This is one of those rights of passage if a player stays with USC all the way to the end. Everyone of them played a role in the successes and failures of this team...in for a dime, in for a dollar.
We wish them all the best and we will miss them all.