If you get recruited by USC, two things must be going through your mind: I'm going to the NFL and I'm going to pick up one of those pretty Song Girls.
While Pete Carroll can't guarantee you the latter, a fabled USC career will eventually make you pretty good money from an NFL team.
According to Pete Carroll’s website, there are currently 33 USC players in the NFL, which definitely gets the thumbs-up from this website in the ‘Go to USC, go to the NFL’ front.
We have seen what has happened to USCers in the NFL. Much is expected, but is everything hunky-dory in 'The Big-Time?'. The answer is no.
Take Heisman winner Matt Leinart for one. After a breathtakingly brilliant career at USC, his numbers have gone where no-one expected them: downwards. Not only has his starts diminished (11 games in 2006, five games in 2007, and absolutely none in 2008), but he’s become more famous for his off-the-field adventures than his ones on the field. And unless Kurt Warner breaks his leg in 2009, then he’ll continue to rot in the reserves.
Then there’s his formerly favourite target Dwayne Jarrett, who had a total of ten receptions in his second season in 2008 for just over 100 yards receiving. That’s not exactly payback for Carolina, who took him in the second round, is it?
Oh, and how about Mike Williams? Remember the college wide receiving superstar who made secondaries look silly in 2002 and 2003. Well, it was the NFL that made Williams look sillier, where he’s gone from ‘First Round pick’ to ‘Free Agent’ in a matter of three years. Maybe he should have played at quarterback.
That’s not to say that Mark Sanchez shouldn’t have gone in his junior year. Remember, the tall guy with the strong arm is a first round shoo-in and probably the best quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft. Not only that, but owners and coaches alike must have felt encouraged to start younger quarterbacks after the breathtaking performances of Mssrs. Flacco and Ryan, who have torn up the NFL in their rookie seasons.
The reason why? Because former USC Trojans have shown them the way.
There's that guy Troy Polamalu, who got two Super Bowl rings as a Pittsburgh Steeler. He's one of the best safeties in the game. Not a bad pick for the Steelers, who offered two lower-round picks for the chance to grab the long-haired one in the first round, not bad at all.
Reggie Bush has seemingly been on stunning form for the New Orleans Saints ever since he started his NFL career. If he keeps his nose clean, he’ll be a Hall of Fame shoo-in.
Matt Cassel, Carson Palmer’s backup at the Coliseum, was brilliant as a replacement for Tom Brady last season at the Patriots, and that Carson Palmer guy’s been pretty darned good himself in Cincinnati. Now, if only his coaches could do something about the defence.
And if Keith Rivers started his NFL career with 37 tackles as a rookie in Cincy, then his future potential is frightening.
And the future for former Caroll stars?
While we may well see Sanchez start next season, look for Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews to wreak havoc as NFL linebackers in 2009. God help us if one of them goes to either Baltimore or Pittsburgh (I’m hoping - for Penn State reasons – that none of the three goes to Carolina or Buffalo!).
Then there’s wide receiver Patrick Turner and safety Kevin Ellison – both of whom should shore up a team’s reserves on either side of the ball.
But to USC future NFLers: remember the ghost of Mike Williams. You might end up like him.