The College Football Hall of Fame may get just a bit mightier this year as former USC Trojans Carson Palmer, Jack Del Rio and Jeff Bregel are each on the opening ballot for the class of 2021. Palmer headlines the trio though Del Rio and Bregel each are as deserving as anyone.
USC’s fifth Heisman Trophy winner, Palmer was the school’s first since 1981 and is a multi-time USC record holder. He led USC to a 10-2 record in 2002 and an Orange Bowl victory, throwing for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns including 19 touchdowns over the last half of the season. He finished his career as the Pac-10’s career passing yard leader and total offensive yardage leader upon his Trojan career culmination.
He was the first overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and played multiple seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals and had another stint with the Oakland Raiders before ultimately calling it a career in 2017. He’s an Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor member, finished for the NFL lead in touchdowns in 2005 and has his No. 3 retired at USC.
His career statistics speak for themselves, and you’d have to think he’s a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame class of 2021.
Del Rio played for the Trojans from 1981-1984 despite being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round out of high school. He played both sports at USC as well but obviously excelled on the gridiron. Before he became known as a head coach in the NFL, Del Rio was a two-time First Team All-Pac-10 player, a third-team All-American in 1983, a consensus All-American in 1984 and the Rose Bowl co-MVP in 1985.
He was then selected in the third round of the 1985 NFL Draft where he won the New Orleans Saints Rookie of the Year award and made the NFL All-Rookie team in his first season. He made the Pro Bowl in 1994 and became inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2015.
Del Rio has made incredible contributions to the NFL after his playing days were done, becoming the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach from 2003 to 2011 after multiple years as an assistant coach. He currently is the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator, a position he filled when longtime friend and sometime rival Ron Rivera was appointed head coach in D.C.
Bregel played for USC with Del Rio and was a consensus All-American in back-to-back seasons from 1985-86. He was selected in the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers and played three seasons up north.
Bregel won the Morris Trophy in 1985, the award given annually since 1980 to the best offensive and defensive linemen in the Pac-10/12, as selected by opposing players. Years before offensive linemen were as heralded as they are now, Bregel was the epitome of top-notch, elite-level interior offensive lineman.
It’s an honor to see three on the finalists list for the Hall of Fame and though it’s likely we may not see all three get into the Hall this year, the chances of being a well-represented Trojans class is there. We’ll most likely see Palmer and very possibly should see Del Rio and Bregel finally make the leap.
Either way, congratulations gentlemen. This is an incredible honor and an incredible time to be a Trojan! Fight On!