If at every major USC event the recurring theme has to be Trojan Family, it was never more evident than tonight. Tonight the university made the Trojan family whole again when current Head Coach Pete Carroll brought former Coach John Robinson back into the fold. Suddenly everything felt right and it was the perfect way to kick off yet another USC football season.
Coach Robinson was honored tonight as the man who chartered the Trojan’s last National Championship. That 1978 team featured some outstanding talent that became, not only USC Hall of Fame players but also NFL Hall of Famers. As their quarterback, Paul McDonald, pointed out there were obvious similarities to the ‘03 Trojans and the ‘78 Trojans. The most obvious was that both would be taking a trip to Alabama to launch their seasons. In 1978, the Trojans traveled to Alabama to face the number one ranked Crimson Tide. It was the third game of their campaign but the victory launched the Trojans to national prominence and an eventual title. It isn’t far different today. USC will travel to Alabama and square off with the top ranked Auburn Tigers. If, once again, the Trojans can come out victorious it could set the stage for yet another national title run. As Pete Carroll has promised to all us fans and his players... “We’re just getting started.”
John Robinson showed the class, dignity and leadership that made him a Trojan favorite and legend. He commented on how some things never change - the band, and the fact that we are all Trojans for life. He had high praise for the current staff and the talent they have brought in and feels supremely confident in the team’s ability. Having him introduce his National Championship squad made you realize how integral a member he is of Trojan history.
If you have never been to a Salute to Troy, it is basically a gigantic tailgate offering fans to opportunity to meet their favorite players. It is a perfect environment for the “Family” to get together under the stars in Southern California. Team Captains, Keary Colbert and Melvin Simmons were introduced tonight and it’s obvious USC couldn’t have better leaders on or off the field. From there, each coach introduces their group of young men. To say Pete Carroll has put together a fantastic staff is understating things a bit. I think it would be tough to say there is a better group of coaches in the nation. They are the difference makers on this team and will be what carries the Trojans to victory this coming season. They have made playing football at USC fun again. The fire that Coaches Orgeron, Holt, Pola and most evidently Davis possess is surely contagious. There is no room for mediocrity with these men and that is reflected in the eyes of their players. The swagger is back and it’s good to see.
Back when JR was the coach, he would have the players put on skits for the fans. I still remember Taso Papadakis doing his best Dean Martin in white tux and tales, or that entire secondary which contained current NFL starters Daylon McCutcheon and Rashard Cook rapping to their own rendition of the Trojan Fight Song. The Salute has always been about introducing the players to the fans and allowing each group to realize they are integral to the Family Lore.
Speaking of Papadakis’s, John Papadakis was honored with the Marv Goux award for being the outstanding Trojan of this last year. John has been an outstanding Trojan since the day he walked onto SC’s campus. His sons mirror that effort in their own way by pumping USC up on the national stage through Fox Sports broadcasts and on the local stage at the family Taverna. All Trojan fans and family would do well to follow their lead. If it wasn’t for the Papadakis family, USC wouldn’t enjoy the talents of many of our gridiron favorites.
Art Bartner and the band was there, as usual, pumping the fans up and the ceremonies were capped with a fabulous fireworks display. None of that, though, could steal the attention of what every fan came to see... the 2003 Trojans. Let me tell you, for all who weren’t in attendance or have yet to see a practice, this is a more talented team than USC has fielded in quite some time. Success on the field breeds success off and the attendance marked that. This was the largest preseason event USC has hosted in nearly 20 years.
As Norm Chow said to Matt Leinart today regarding taking snaps and preparing for Auburn, “You don’t need any more snaps. You are ready.” Well in the same fashion, the Trojan Family has gone through its own version of preparation and they are ready to handle the success with the dignity and pride only winners exhibit. Pete Carroll, his outstanding staff, Mike Garrett and the entire athletic community at USC have us ready to embrace that greatest tradition of the Trojan Family - winning. Auburn’s one week away. Start the countdown. USC’s coming to play and we’re bringing the family with us. Fight On!