Few positions in sports are as celebrated as center for the Lakers, quarterback for the Packers, shortstop for the Yankees-or tailback for the USC Trojans. O.J. Simpson, Charles White, and Marcus Allen all won Heisman Trophies carrying the pigskin in South Central, and the school has snagged a host of national championships on the strength of its famed Student Body Right play (see “Big Play on Campus,” page 70). Reggie Bush finished fifth in Heisman balloting last season as a sophomore, despite starting only two of 13 games for the two-time defending national champs. And you thought they called this guy “The President” because of his last name.
If everything goes well, you could turn pro and become a millionaire in less than a year. How do you deal with that kind of pressure?
You can’t help but think about it, but I don’t want to let it get the best of me. I’d say it drives me to succeed even more. I got to this point by staying focused, so that’s what I’m going to continue to do. People have been amazed sometimes with what I’ve been able to do, but it’s always just felt normal to me.
How sore are you after a normal game?
As soon as the game ends and I start to relax, I start feeling it. Especially when you are flying back from a game-something about that high altitude makes your muscles even sorer. Sometimes I can barely walk. But I take pride in that. Otherwise I don’t feel like I worked hard enough during the game.
You’ve avoided injuries so far-what’s your secret?
I don’t know. There are plays where it seems like I could’ve ripped my knee off completely. One game against Colorado State, this guy fell on my leg and it bent all the way back. But I came out of it fine. Maybe it’s adrenaline. My senior year in high school, I broke my wrist after about two plays. It hurt a lot at first, but during the game, I didn’t even know it was broken. I ended up having a cast on for about six months.
How do USC players approach the legacy of O.J. Simpson-possible murderer or legendary Trojan?
You can’t take away what he did on the field. I definitely have respect for him as a football player, regardless of what happened later. My parents actually met him during the Orange Bowl, and they were really excited. They said he was nice.