The 2017 College Football Hall of Fame ballot was released Wednesday and three Trojans made the cut. Safety Mark Carrier, quarterback Matt Leinart, and strong safety Troy Polamalu are the representatives for the Trojans, part of a star-studded ballot, whose class will be announced on January 6, 2017.
Mark Carrier was one of the most prolific safeties of his time. Named a USA Today High School All-American in 1985, he had a tremendous career at USC. In 1989, his junior campaign, he was named to the Playboy All-American Team and won the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back.
A three-year starter for the Trojans, he would finish his time at Southern California with 13 interceptions. The NFL, specifically the Chicago Bears took notice of his accomplishments as he was drafted in the 1990 NFL Draft with the eighth overall pick. From there, he began a fruitful professional career.
After backing up Carson Palmer in his first season, Matt Leinart took over the starting job for the Trojans in 2003. He would go on to throw for over 3,000 yards in all three seasons with his best campaign coming in that first year when he threw for 3,556 yards, 38 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. That year, he would win the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Award.
He would win the Heisman Trophy in 2004 as well as the National Championship that same year. In addition, he would have his number 11 retired by the program as well, putting the cherry on top of what was a tremendous career, finishing his time at USC with 10,693 passing yards, 99 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
If you looked up hard-hitting safety in the dictionary in the early 2000’s, you would have seen Troy Polamalu’s picture. Playing for the Trojans as a defensive back, he would start all 12 games during his three years with the program. He would tally six total interceptions, three of which he would return for touchdowns. In regards to those returns, he ranked first in the NCAA in that department with one in 2000 and two in 2001. In 2002, he was named a Consensus All-American, providing a foreshadowing of what would be a tremendous NFL career.
Drafted in the first round, 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would be named to eight total Pro Bowls, named a first-team All-Pro four times, and was part of two Super Bowl wins for Pittsburgh (XL, XLIII.) He retired in 2014, putting an end to an outstanding career.
The star-power that the Trojans bring to the ballot is only a fraction of the star-studded talent in the class, in what should be one of the most prolific groups in recent memory.