We interrupt the pre-Draft coverage with a little fun tidbit. Eleven National Championships, 39 NFL Hall of Fame inductees, and seven Heisman winners later, here are our favorite Trojans of all-time.
Dina—Matt Barkley, QB (2009-2012)
When I tell people Matt Barkley is my favorite Trojan of all time, I often get a weird look.
I’m sure they are wondering why a player who wasn’t on a National Championship or Rose Bowl winning team is my number one guy, or even a Heisman winner. To that I say, let’s just take a trip down memory lane.
Barkley was named the starting quarterback as a true freshman by then head coach Pete Carroll. When Carroll left for the NFL and the NCAA hit USC with the “death penalty” sanctions, some players chose to transfer. They had come to USC to win championships and bowl games, and with the sanctions, that just wasn’t going to happen.
Barkley was one that everyone assumed would transfer to another program. He had just been named the starting quarterback of a top D1 program as a true freshman and had his whole college career ahead of him. During his first season with the Trojans he marched right down the field in the Horseshoe at Ohio State and won the game in USC’s final drive, so he had the potential to lead another program to some championships.
Yet, through all the impeding sanctions, Barkley stayed. In my opinion, he showed more heart and love for his school than any other Trojan to date. I remember sitting on my bed in 2011 in my #7 jersey, watching Barkley’s December press conference with an anxious heart.
Would he come back back for his senior season?
That day in December was a good one. Barkley was coming back and the sanctions were coming off. Though the 2012 season did not go as planned, through it all Barkley showed just how much he loved wearing that cardinal and gold, you could just tell.
“Fight On” embodied his college career and USC’s most loyal Trojan is my favorite of all-time.
(And 50-0 is still the greatest USC vs. UCLA victory ever)
Matthew- Reggie Bush, RB (2003-2005)
This one was tough for me because I have a few all time favorites, however Reggie Bush sits right at the top for me.
While some may remember and bring up the sanctions that was put on USC due to the situation involving Reggie Bush, we can’t forget everything he’s done on the field. The things that Bush done on the field was very video game like and unbelievable. Growing up in middle school and my freshman year of high school, watching USC football was the thing to do because you always wanted to see what the team was going to do and see what show Reggie Bush was going to put on.
Bush was clearly ahead of it’s time in College Football and was one of the most electrifying players we’ve ever seen in College Football. Seeing No. 5 hurdle over players against UCLA in 2005 was a moment that always stuck out to me and something I unsuccessfully done during my youth. The infamous “Bush Push” game that saved USC’s season against Notre Dame that same season is another that I can not get out of my head. I always remember going to school that Monday morning and everyone talking about the game.
The game vs Fresno State will be a performance that I will never ever forget. Arguably the greatest individual showing in College Football where Reggie Bush put up video game numbers and single handedly out gained the Bulldogs in the Coliseum that night. This was a game that won him the Heisman trophy during the 2005 season.
To this day I still own a #5 USC jersey (And worn to the 2017 Rose Bowl Game) and yes he is still my favorite Trojan of all time. I hope one day they bring him back on campus and recognize all of his accomplishments. To me he still is an influence to many players that are currently at USC or looking to become Trojans.
Brennen- Matt Leinart, QB (2002-2005)
It is impossible to think of the modern day USC Trojans without thinking of the Matt Leinart era.
One of the best to come out of Southern California, Leinart led the Trojans three successful seasons as the Trojans quarterback. Ending his career with a 4:1 TD to INT ratio and a 159-passer rating. What made Leinart special is that not only did he bring an electricity to the field, but he also was consistent as a passer through his three seasons. Leinart only had one season where he threw for less than 30 touchdowns and he never recorded a double-digit season for interceptions.
Paired with the elusive Reggie Bush, they combined for one of the greatest offensive tandems in the history of college football. Stats aside what was most memorable about Leinart was his ability to compete. He would never shy away from a competitive matchup; in fact they seemed to have the opposite effect on him. He had a special ability to rally the team behind him and always bring out the best effort in those around him. Leinart will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Trojans and college quarterbacks of all time.
Josh - Carson Palmer, QB (1998-2002)
I started actively watching football of my own volition right around the age of 10, which was the year 2000. My father grew up in Riverside and then relocated to the Bay Area around the age of 14, so I picked up my football fandom (USC Trojans and San Francisco 49ers) from him. Picking a favorite Trojan player is tough - part of me would want to say Ronnie Lott but I never actually saw the man play. My pick, then, is Carson Palmer.
In the late 90s and early 2000s USC sort of just drudged their way through each season. From 1996-2001 the Trojans literally posted a record of 37-35, which was their second-worst record over any five year period in school history.
Enter Carson Palmer and Pete Caroll.
Palmer struggled throughout most of his collegiate career - that is, until Carroll and Norm Chow changed things up. After going 6-6 in 2001, USC started out 3-2 in 2002 before rattling off 8 straight wins. Carson threw for over 3,900 yards and 33 touchdowns, brought USC football back from the ruins, and won the Heisman Trophy (along with my heart).
In 2009 USC was named “Team of the Decade” by CBS Sports and Football.com, as well as “Program of the Decade” by Sports Illustrated - a far cry from where they were at the end of the 90s. Pete Carroll obviously has a lot to do with that but it’s also cool to take a look back and realize that Carson Palmer was at the beginning of USC’s impressive run through the 2000s.