I’m sitting here outside of Heritage Hall with former Trojan fullback Brandon Hancock. Brandon, thanks for being here today.
You were the valedictorian coming out of Clovis West High School. You had your choice of colleges to attend, and it came down to Stanford and USC. What made you decide on USC?
I wanted to stay in California. Between Stanford and USC, there were two big factors for me. The first was being in Los Angeles. I’m interested in the entertainment industry, and SC and the Los Angeles area had that advantage hands down over Stanford. Secondly and most importantly, was Coach Carroll. At the time USC was a 6-6 program. A lot of people were wondering why I was considering come here when I could be up at the Farm where Tyrone Willingham was doing his thing. There was a meeting between myself and Coach Carroll after one of the camps. I understood his vision, his passion, and it was very evident with his charisma and energy and demeanor that he was going to be capable of producing something very special. I knew he had all of the pieces in place, a great recruiting class coming in. I trusted what he had in store and it happened to work out. It’s been a fantastic ride.
You’re nicknamed the Hulk for obvious reasons. When did you get into weightlifting?
I started really young, when I was about 13. I was always a good athlete, but I was a tall, lanky kid. I was starting to play football at the time. I was the quarterback. And I just remember one day I got clowned by some people at school because of this one girl who had developed calves. People were making fun of me, saying, “She’s got bigger legs than you, man, you’re a wimp.” At that age, I didn’t want to be the guy getting hit. I wanted to be the guy giving the hits. So I put things aside socially, spent a lot of time in the gym, and pursued my goals. I went from playing quarterback to linebacker, playing fullback, and earning my role here. It’s a healthy lifestyle. You compete against yourself every day. It’s a goal, it keeps you disciplined, the regimen, the nutrition, the training. It all correlates into the real world and how you approach life, how you attack life and try to better yourself on a daily basis.
How were Coach Carlisle’s workouts for you? Did you go beyond his program for you or was his program sufficient?
Well I always did a little extra, just because I have a background in body-building. I appeared as a fitness model and competed on stage a couple of times. Carlisle’s workouts are rigorous, very long and intense. They are all-encompassing. You’re training not just one body part a day, which was a little different for me. I think Carlisle’s program is great. I tailored it a little to my personal interests, but either way it was effective. I don’t think there are too many people here who would say that his workout is not sufficient. Trust me on that one.
You mentioned you were a fitness model. What have you appeared in?
I started doing magazines when I was sixteen. I was getting looked at by Notre Dame. They saw me in Flex Magazine then. I was in Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Health, and Muscle Magazine International. I did some shoots a couple of summers during my time here at USC. Because of that, I do extra cardio, and have what some might consider more of an extreme diet.
You joke about living with Sunny Byrd. How was it like having him as a roommate?
I think it was good for me in a bad way, or bad for me in a good way. I came in here so regimented, so uptight. I wasn’t anti-social, but I was really not experiencing the college lifestyle, I wasn’t seizing the opportunity. I was such a bookworm in the beginning, living by myself, but once I moved in with Sunny, I met so many new people, so many new faces, so many new girls, which was great. My game when I first got here on the field was good, but my game off of the field was atrocious initially. So Sunny was kind of my coach in that sense. (Laughs.) Living with Sunny was great. I did get my only B ever, in my entire academic career, living with him. It was a B+. So kudos to him for that accomplishment!
So one B your whole entire life, including kindergarten, and it was a B+?
Yeah. It hurt. (Laughs.) I never had a B. It was always As or A-minuses. It was a fun period of my life. It lasted for one year. I got a taste of what I needed to see. I learned a lot of life skills from Sunny that I probably otherwise would have never learned. I think it definitely added a lot of value to my college experience.
You are Phi Beta Kappa. You graduated from undergrad with a 3.91 GPA. And you have a 4.0 GPA in your master’s program so far. Talk about what school means to you as a student athlete.
Well the term is “Student Athlete,” not “Athlete Student.” The “Student” part comes first, and it is imperative to focus on the “Student.” Especially in my case, a perfect example of how necessary it is to take care of Plan B and have that academic back up plan per se. So many people come through the system. The statistics are not very favorable in numbers of guys who will come through, make it to the NFL, and make enough money to just live the rest of their lives securely. I don’t look at school as just going through the motions. I compete every day, in the classroom too. I want to get the best grade. I think some approach school here with the wrong attitude, because this is a real gem that we have provided to us. To not really sink your teeth into it and take what is there for you, you’re just squandering a fantastic opportunity. Me personally, I can never live with doing anything with less than 100% effort, whether that is going to the gym and working out, playing football, being in class, or having fun. It’s all about finding that balance, prioritizing and organizing your life in a way that will let you be successful.
You were also involved in the USC Debate Team. How did you get into that? Were you on the debate team in high school as well?
I just fell into it. I was in a law class. My professor was also the head coach of the Debate Team. During the course of the course of the semester, Notre Dame approached him because they had a new debate program. USC’s Debate Team is one of the most highly revered in the country, just like football. My professor approached me with the opportunity. Notre Dame flew us up to debate, and the topic was going to be loosely based on football. I took a red eye flight to South Bend, and got there at 6 am. The debate was at 10 am, and we went up there and just rocked it. I only had two days of preparation. But obviously I’m like a walking USC almanac. I’m on the football team, and I know what’s what. I went up there and put it down. I had a lot of credibility just because I was on the team. I think if they were to have scored the debate, we would have definitely put the smack down. It was fun. Not too many people can say that, in addition to playing football, they were also part of one of the nation’s finest debate squads.
You had the opportunity to play with some great backs, both running backs and fullbacks. How was it like playing with the likes of Reggie Bush, LenDale White, David Kirtman and company?
My personal role model when I came in was Malaefou MacKenzie. He took me under his wing. He was a really big guy. He had some hardships including injures, like me. He pushed himself beyond the limit. Probably more often than not. I can admit I did the same. But just the mentality, the way he dealt with hardship, he kind of helped guide me as a player. Playing with Reggie and LenDale was really fun. When they first came here, they were younger, nothing special. What was really unique about them was watching them mature and gain confidence, develop the swagger and become dominant. To now see them rocking things, doing commercials, making it to the top tier, the highest echelon of the sport, it means a lot to me, because I know I’m a part of that. David and Ryan shared a lot of responsibilities blocking for both of those backs during our tenure here. Even if you’re not the guy scoring the touchdowns, you still live vicariously through their accomplishments because it takes ten blockers and one runner to make a play go for a touchdown. All their success has brought me a tremendous sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. It’s just been great.
Talk about the coaches and how they helped you develop you, and supported you through your injuries.
It was tough when I first got here. When coach McNair came, I felt more in my zone, a lot more comfortable, and the offense was easier to digest. He brings a lot of energy. He knows when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to enjoy it. He has a great level of humor. He identifies with the players well. He’s very easy to get along with. He’s good at dissecting your problems and helping you get through them. All of the coaches from Carlisle to Carroll really supported me. Coach Carroll is the guy I’ve taken more from than any other coach here. The way he lives his life and approaches things. He leads by example. He extracts energy and the positive out of any situation. He doesn’t tolerate anything less than full speed, full tempo, and full commitment. With that, if you take those same core principles and apply them to any facet of life you can be a special person. I’ve been trying to transition that into my life and it’s proven pretty beneficial thus far.
What is your favorite play that you were involved in?
Probably my first college touchdown against Arizona State. It took me a while to get it, it was in my sophomore year. I had injury problems, some ups and downs. That was when I felt I finally arrived. It was 4th and 1, we were behind. It was 100 degrees out there. We had just come off a loss to Cal, and that was a critical point in the season. Had we lost that game, the mentality of the team could have tanked, but that was the come from behind touchdown that helped us cap it off and win in the fourth quarter, so that was a really special moment for me and my family. I had a lot of messages on my phone after from all of my closest friends because they watched that game.
What is your favorite game?
Based purely on setting it has to be that 2005 Notre Dame game. But one of my favorite games I played in was against Texas. Even though we lost, personally, it was one of the best games I played from a blocking perspective. I dominated that defense and I felt that whenever I was in the game with LenDale, we were trucking those guys. It was a fun game. We didn’t win, and we should have in my opinion, but it was a great experience for me.
What is your favorite moment off of the field?
Probably my graduation last year. I’ve been honored with a lot of accolades, Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Laurel and the Palm, which goes to the top 25 graduating students. I was recently inducted into the Skull and Dagger Honor Society, which is pretty prestigious as well. But that day in particular when my family came, it was a culmination of all of my hard work in the classroom. It made my parents so proud, and that in turn made me very proud.
What memories do you have of Mario Danelo?
He had a great attitude. He was always smiling. He was a clutch player, a guy that no one could dislike. He had so many great qualities to him. I was very devastated by his loss. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy you rarely talk to or someone who’s your best friend, once you’re a part of the team you are a part of the Trojan Family forever, so it’s just like losing a brother.
You graduated last year with a bachelor’s degree in communication. You’ll be getting a master’s degree now in what field of study?
My masters is in the Annenberg School of Communication. The title is Communication Management and Entertainment. It’s pretty applicable to what I see myself doing in the near future, broadcasting for radio and television. It encapsulates public relations, marketing, image management, self promotion, things like that. It’s been good. It’s a one-year program. I had to finish by the end of July here, so I wanted to do a program that I could complete within that time frame. Any masters degree you can get on the school’s tab is a good one. The MBA would be the choice most people would go after, but that’s a two-year program and I wanted to knock this out and try to get a career started now. If need be I can always come back and go to law school, and do the conventional route, but I’d like to take the chance to do what I would dream of doing at a young age. I’m 23 years old, and there’s no reason why I can’t go out, try things out and if I fall, regroup and do something different.
Talk about your decision to forego one last season here.
I completely decided to forego my football career. It’s a personal decision. It’s not like I’ve passed my playing prime. I guarantee I can still come out and run a 4.4 40 and bench 30 reps.--
--You know the team could sure use another fullback, right?
(Smiles.) Well I understand that, but I need to have my longevity and health for the rest of my life too, and my doctor basically articulated to me that I have no more cartilage left between my joints in my knees. If I continue to play I will need a knee replacement before I turn 30 years old. But I’m a guy that never really used football. It’s never been my number one motivation for living. It’s something I did because I was good at it and it made my family proud. It was a fun experience. But football doesn’t define who I am. It’s not my sole identity. Obviously I’m proud as hell to have had a part in all the football team has accomplished, but I think it’s just a catalyst and a building block to living the rest of my life and doing greater things.
How do you see the future of the fullback position next year?
I don’t see much of a drop in talent. Stanley Havili has all of the attributes to be very successful at fullback. He catches the ball well and reminds me of Malaefou MacKenzie. He’s young and it takes time to digest the offense. He’s got great hands and good speed and will develop into a fantastic player. I look forward to big things from him and the new guy, Jordan Campbell. He’s a physical specimen so I’m really excited to see what he can bring. Allen Bradford is a guy who can come in. He’s a playmaker. The more playmakers you put on the field, the more success the offense will have in moving the chains.
We’ve seen you on Fox Sports and heard you on ESPN Radio. What’s next for you career-wise?
With my injury last year, ESPN approached me to join their pregame broadcast. It was a great opportunity for me to gain that experience. This was a vehicle for me to connect with the football team and still be part of the limelight with the guys, and represent the team and talk them up in a way that would make them proud, too. So that went great, radio was good, and with that they started giving me more TV gigs doing post-game with Rob Fukuzaki on ABC. One thing leads to another, a talent agency saw that after the Rose Bowl. They were really excited and they wanted to help build my brand through sports. I got that show with Fox Sports. I’m getting some deals, and I just want to keep riding this wave. Next year I’m definitely going to be working with the USC Athletic Department, doing some radio and some online platform stuff for them, which I’m happy to be a part of. And then if I get a contract with ESPN or ABC or Fox, it’s a great way for me to stay close to the game. From there, there is no saying I can’t come back four or five years from now and go to law school and be a successful lawyer like my father.
Anything else you’d like to say to the fans as you head off to the next phase of your life?
I remember when I initially came to this program there was a big article done on me in Sports Illustrated, and the tag line, which I had no control over, read, “I am Brandon Hancock. You’ll hear from me.” Well, it may not have transpired as fully as it could have on the field for me with the injuries, but I don’t think that is the end all be all. I still expect to do fantastic things in my future, noticeable things in my future. And I want to represent this university and all the fans that have been out there to support me. I will always be a Trojan.