Saturday, November 12, 2005

More Trojans in Sports Illustrated

There's another former USC Trojan in this week's Sports Illustrated, Mike Williams, who talks about about what he misses now that he's in the NFL:
"When I watch SC play, Matt [Leinart], Reggie [Bush] and those guys, that's the thing I regret," says the USC star who had to miss a year of football when he unsuccessfully challenged the NFL's minimum-age rule after his sophomore year. Williams, who says he enjoys the NFL, and who has 19 catches, goes on: "Sometimes I feel stupid that I left that part of my life too soon.... Here, nobody sees us until Sunday. In college, kids see you when you leave practice, see you in school. The same guy [who] cheers for you sees you Monday through Friday."
Lofa Tatupa also talked about his first season in the NFL:
Tatupu, a 5'11", 238-pound second-rounder from USC leads Seattle in tackles with 52, but it is a humbling experience that has stuck with him: facing the Cowboys' 6'3", 325-pound, nine-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen, who in an SI Players poll of his peers last year was voted the NFL's strongest man. "He is not playing around," says Tatupu, who experienced Allen's wrath in a Week 7 win over Dallas. "The man is a beast. He laid me out a couple times. Once he got me good. I was on my back, [and] he turned me over like ... I don't even want to know what it was like. I've never seen anybody get handled like [I was]."
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New USC Blog

The Orange County Register has a new USC football blog called Talking Trojans. In their first post, they link to TrojanWire's post on my post on Troy Polamalu's Sports Illustrated cover.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

BCS Still Causing Controversy

With two more undefeated teams going down last week, only three -- USC, Texas and Alabama -- enter this weekend without a loss. If all three win out, an unbeaten team will be excluded from the BCS championship game for the second year in a row.

Last season, USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all finished the regular season undefeated. USC and Oklahoma met in the national championship game, the Orange Bowl. Auburn beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. USC finished at the top of both polls, effectively winning a consensus national championship.

"I felt bad for Auburn last year," said USC fullback Brandon Hancock.

A year earlier, it was the Trojans who were squeezed out of the BCS title game, even though they the top spot in both human polls. Oklahoma played LSU in the Sugar Bowl; USC defeated Michigan in the Rose Bowl and won the AP national championship. The coaches, contractually obligated to vote for the winner of the Sugar Bowl, chose LSU.

The BCS continues to spark fervent debate among college football fans. Earlier this season, USC briefly dropped behind Texas even though they far outdistanced the Longhorns in both human polls, thanks Texas' strong showing in the computer ranking component of the BCS formula. Those computer rankings are the product of complicated formulas devised by mathematicians with no practical football experience.

"It's like having a dentist operate on a foot," said Hancock, who has been asked to be part of a debate on the BCS system.

Seeing as how mathematicians get to select the best team in football, one wonders what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot and football players were relied on to devise mathematical formulas.

"It just wouldn't be right," said USC tailback Desmond Reed. "I mean, we're just football players." When asked to name his favorite equation, Reed replied, "a2 + b2 = c2."

If he had to suggest a teammate to devise a formula, Reed said he would pick Hancock, who is generally considered the best student on the team.

Hancock would rather not focus on formulas at all. "A computer doesn't know the intangibles," he said. "The AP and coaches poll are more credible."

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Markazi: Bush is Sportsman of the Year

Recent USC graduate Arash Markazi, who currently writes for Sports Illustrated, SI on Campus and, says Trojan tailback Reggie Bush is his pick for 2005 Sportsman of the Year.
Look at the faces of the helpless defenders who try to tackle Bush, and watch them fall over themselves like villains trying to take on Bruce Lee in a Kung Fu movie. Look at the people in the crowd hold their breaths with anticipation every time Bush touches the ball. Look at his teammates as they whoop and holler and hit each other like fans at a slam dunk contest every time he reverses field and makes players miss.

Ask any player on the USC football team who their most valuable player is and they will all -- even Matt Leinart, the team's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback -- say Bush. Despite being unbeatable for the past two years, the Trojans know that they would probably have a handful of losses if it hadn't been for the man they call The President. Says USC coach Pete Carroll, "I told him you're the most valuable guy on the field for what you're creating by your presence."

To every father who has sat down with his child and tried to describe the greatness of Gale Sayers or the elusiveness of Barry Sanders, breathe easy. The next generation has arrived. In Bush, who averages more than 200 all-purpose yards per game and scores a touchdown nearly every 10 times he touches the ball, college football fans are treated to the most exciting player in the sport every Saturday.
RELATED: Sports Illustrated's Reggie Bush photo gallery

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Post-Op Report

"Desmond Reed," USC quarterback Matt Leinart once remarked, "is the best kept secret in college football."

Unfortunately for Leinart and the rest of his teammates, Reed will remain under wraps a little while longer, thanks to an injury he suffered several weeks ago at Notre Dame.

Yesterday morning, Reed had surgery to repair the torn ACL he suffered against the Irish. It was performed in San Francisco by Dr. Arthur Ting, an orthopedic surgeon who is the team physician for the NHL's San Jose Sharks and also happens to be the father of Trojans Ryan and Brandon Ting.

After the surgery, Reed confessed to being in significant pain, but said he was heartened by the news that the damage was not as bad as initally feared. "Normally when [the ligament] snaps it curls up," said Reed, "but mine was just chillin' so that was good."

Reed will be on crutches for three weeks and then begin his rehabilitation. "I'm going to try my hardest and hit rehab every day."

Reed will stay in the Bay Area through the weekend, giving him a chance to join his teammates on the sidelines when the Trojans take on Cal.

As for the pain, "I'll be fine by Thursday or Friday," he said.

Just in time for the game.

PREVIOUSLY: Weis Game Plan Leaves Reed Hobbling

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Trojan Profile: Brandon Hancock

Name: Brandon Hancock

Number: 40
Class: redshirt junior
Position: fullback
Hometown: Fresno, CA

Siblings: one sister
Roommates: I live by myself in a studio

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Kelly Monaco
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: sense of humor
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: arrogance

Non-football role model: Lance Armstrong
Non-football highlight: Graduating with the team-high GPA
Best sport other than football: Cycling (after injuring my knee it was my main form of exercise)
Career other than football: entertainment law or a sports attorney

Scares you: spiders
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes, Michelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Surprising fact: I have a 3.89 GPA, I eat 7,000 calories a day

Specialty in the kitchen: the bare essentials, steak and egg whites

Favorite professional football team: Cincinnati Bengals
Favorite professional football player: Mike Alstott (that's why I wear #40)

Opponent you dislike the most: Cal because a good friend of mine plays for them

Funniest teammate: Formerly Matt Clay Matthews
Prettiest: Thomas Williams
Most athletic: Reggie Bush
Most humble: Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui

Funniest Trojan moment: When linebackers coach Nick Holt gave a long-winded Kentucky Derby analogy and impersonated a horse (Holt is now head coach at the University of Idaho)

Pete Carroll in one word: Competitor

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Trojan Profile: Desmond Reed

Name: Desmond Reed

Number: 22
Class: redshirt sophomore
Position: tailback/special teams
Hometown: San Gabriel, CA

Siblings: one brother, three sisters
Roommates: Josh Pinkard and Mozique McCurtis

Girlfriend: No
Dream girl: Beyoncé Knowles
Most attractive characteristic in a girl: sense of humor
Least attractive characteristic in a girl: a "nagger"

Non-football role model: My grandmother
Non-football highlight: Graduating from high school and my whole family flying in town for it
Best sport other than football: Basketball
Career other than football: professional basketball player

Scares you: Snakes
Last time you cried: At Notre Dame

Surprising fact: I'm a neat freak
Formerly slept with a stuffed animal: Yes

Specialty in the kitchen: peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a Caesar salad

Favorite professional football team: Dallas Cowboys
Favorite professional football player: Emmitt Smith

Opponent you dislike the most: Cal because one of my good friends plays for them

Funniest teammate: Josh Pinkard
Prettiest: Thomas Williams or Hershel Dennis
Most athletic: Dwayne Jarrett
Most humble: Darnell Bing

Pete Carroll in one word: Business

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Trojans in the NFL

Former Trojan standout Troy Polamalu is on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, sporting the trademark mane that should be familiar to USC fans.

Polamalu is the subject of Nunyo Demasio's cover story, titled, "The Mane Man."
What distinguishes Polamalu -- aside from the hair -- is the multitude of roles he plays in the Steelers' defense. At times he ambles to the line of scrimmage, then sprints back before the snap to become a third cornerback. Other times he'll jog up from his safety spot to become a fifth linebacker. But his most exotic role is as a pass-rushing end, in essence giving Pittsburgh a 4-4 formation; he'll even occasionally execute a stunt with a defensive lineman. In a Sept. 18 victory over the Houston Texans, Polamalu came at quarterback David Carr from all angles, tying an NFL record for a safety with three sacks. Only linebackers Porter and Clark Haggans have more for the Steelers this season.

The 2004 Pro Bowler's play at the line compels opposing coaches to pay special attention to him in their game plan, often using motion and shifts to force him to stay deep, where he has a tendency to bite on play-action. "If you don't know where he is, he'll kill you," says Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "He's all over the field." The Packers got a firsthand look on Sunday, when Polamalu made six tackles and recovered two fumbles, returning one for a 77-yard touchdown in a 20-10 Steelers victory.

Polamalu so effectively masks his intentions that keeping track of him is a challenge. The quirkiest disguise is when he moves up, faking a blitz, then turns his back to the offense as if he's about to return to the secondary. At the snap Polamalu will suddenly whirl back around and rush the quarterback. "The thing that puts teeth into those moves is the fact that he can [do so many things]," says Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "So when he's at the line of scrimmage, the offense has to say, 'He may be coming.' If he turns his back to go deep, they're saying, 'Oh, no, he's going deep.' And then he wheels from that and blitzes. So you're dealing with the element of surprise."

Polamalu's frantic movement and ravenous appetite for ballcarriers earned him the nickname Tasmanian Devil from fellow starting safety Chris Hope last season. "It goes with the way his hair goes all over the place and the way he runs," Hope says. "He's always into something. If you look at our film, he's always diving, scratching, clawing under a pile. He's always full speed, going 125 mile per hour."

Once the whistle blows, though, Polamalu appears to be the most serene person on the field. He often helps up an opponent he just walloped, then saunters back to the huddle, head down, saying a silent prayer. He hardly chats with teammates and never talks trash. Porter has heard the safety curse on the field only twice, both times shocking his teammates.

Defensive end Kimo Von Oelhoffen noticed Polamalu's idiosyncrasies during the safety's first NFL preseason game, in 2003. "I love to watch him," says Von Oelhoffen, a 12-year veteran. "He [just] smiles between plays. Then it's Bing! Bing! Bing! He's all over the place."


Polamalu grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., the youngest of five children (he has a brother and three older sisters) in a household headed by his divorced mother, Suila. During the summer of 1989, when Troy was eight, the family took a trip to tiny Tenmile, Ore., where his Uncle Salu and Aunt Shelley lived with their three sons, one of whom, Joe Polamalu, played football at Oregon State. Troy was struck by the pastoral setting. "This was a complete contrast to my life in L.A.," Polamalu says. "I saw horses in the field, sheep, cows, beautiful green trees. I'm thinking: Dang, this is awesome."

After a week Suila was ready to drive back to California, but Troy asked to stay behind for a while. His mother agreed, and when she called a few days later, Troy cried and pleaded for more time. Realizing that rural Oregon was a better environment for her child, Suila allowed him to remain with his aunt, uncle and cousins. Troy grew into a star running back and defensive back at nearby Douglas High in Winston, and didn't return to Southern California until 1999, as a highly prized freshman for the USC Trojans. At USC, Polamalu embraced his Samoan heritage, joining Polynesian dance clubs and learning the Samoan language from friends. After his freshman year he took his first trip to American Samoa to visit his mother, who had moved there in 1996 after remarrying.

Success in football was also part of his heritage. His brother, Kaio Aumua, played at Texas-El Paso; his cousin Nicky Sualua was a tailback for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys; and Troy's uncle Kennedy Pola played fullback at USC from 1982 to '85 and is now the running backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Polamalu maintained the family tradition at USC, where he was a two-time All-America and one of three finalists for the 2002 Thorpe Award.

It was at USC, too, that he had his last haircut -- in 2000, when as a sophomore he was told to do so by a coach. Polamalu's mane is now so long that it obscures the name on the back of his jersey, revealing only the first and last letters, but he has no plans to cut it again unless his wife, Theodora, insists. "It's a part of you," he says. "It just feels like an appendage. I guess I'd save a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner, rubber bands.... "
In the same issue, Peter King has a related story on the number of young defensive players making a big impact this season:
The Jets followed middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma's young leadership to the playoffs last year, and now two contenders -- Cincinnati (with Odell Thurman) and Seattle (Lofa Tatupu) -- have rookie middle 'backers calling defensive signals.

[...]The most accomplished of the young bunch, and certainly the most recognizable, may be Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who in just three seasons has become a force in the league, ranging all over the field, hair flowing as he delivers game-changing plays.

RELATED: Polamalu and his wife, Theodora

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