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My favorite moment in USC football history was the night in 2002 when Carson Palmer became a legend. However, that night wasn’t the reason I became a fan, but it did provide the spark. The fandom didn’t really turn into a blaze until the following year when USC started its magnificent run. Now it wasn’t just the winning that drew me to the Trojans, it was slightly bigger than that.
Growing up I was a bit of a contrarian when it came supporting sports teams. Everyone would tell me “You should support the Kings, you’re from Sacramento!” or “You should be a 49ers fan, they’re your local NFL team!” Those reasons were never good enough for me, I didn’t see a point in rooting for a team just because I lived in their city. Rooting for a team that didn’t have any players I liked, just because they were a short trip out interstate 80 didn’t cut it for me either.
The same was true for me when it came to College football as well, everyone kept giving me these Northern California teams to support. Stanford this, Cal Berkeley that, my best friend and his family even invited me to go to games. Even though I enjoyed all my trips to Memorial Stadium, and wouldn’t trade the experience I had at the farm for The Big Game for anything, I couldn’t commit. The memories of Carson Palmer were too strong, luckily USC was hitting its stride, and while Palmer was gone an emerging combo of Reggie Bush and Lendale White were creating that same excitement.
USC provided me with a team I could support, with players I could look up to, a style of play that was both bruising and electrifying, with enough tradition and talent so I could argue down my Berkeley and Stanford loving friends. Though, I didn’t realize just how much I loved the team until the 2004 Rose Bowl. Sure there were signs, I could call out running plays by formation, and recognize Norm Chow’s favorite red zone plays, but I thought everyone knew that sort of thing.
The moment I realized I would be a USC Trojan fan for life, was late into the 3rd quarter of the ’04 Rose Bowl when the Trojans ran a reverse to Mike Williams. I stood up on the couch at my Grandma’s as soon as Williams touched the ball and screamed: “He’s gonna throw it!” Sure enough, Williams hit a wide open Leinart and the Trojans took a decisive 28-7 lead on their way to victory. After the play, a cousin, who was in his own contrarian phase cheering for Michigan, asked me how did I know the throw was coming off the reverse? I told him, it was because I knew Mike Williams was left handed, he laughed at me and said: “Wow you really like this team huh?”
I thought about it for a second and replied, “Yeah I guess I do.”
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