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September 13, 2009
Toughness defines this USC team
COLUMBUS, Ohio- USC has been in the public eye since right around the time Pete Carroll took over as the Trojans' head coach. At the zenith, the Trojan sidelines resembled the patio at The Ivy.
Celebrities would flock to USC games to see the greatest show on dirt, to see stars like Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Mike Williams and LenDale White.
While the occasional celeb pops into practice or ambles down the sideline now and then, it has not been like it was.
After Saturday, that might start to change.
Following the Trojans' 18-15 win over Ohio State, the players left the field, leaving a trail of swagger and sweat behind on the Ohio Stadium Field.
During an interview with Averell Spicer, actor and USC superfan Will Ferrell, spoke directly into my recorder with a simple message: "Classic."
From the starting quarterback with the blonde hair and the good looks down through the rest of the team, this team is on the cusp of becoming Hollywood all over again.
But while the Leinart-Bush teams captured the curiosity of the city's A-list with lots of flash and glitz, this team will do it differently. This USC team is tough like a two-dollar T-bone steak.
The locker room looked a little like a triage unit Saturday after the game. Taylor Mays limped around the locker room after twisting his knee. Rhett Ellison's cardinal pants had crimson blood stains running down the right leg. Anthony McCoy had a gash on his left shoulder.
But while their bodies where bruised, their faces were tattooed with grins.
No matter what was said before the game, this was a big game. Matt Barkley, the quarterback without feeling in his throwing shoulder, said he'd never been anywhere as loud. The offensive line struggled hearing Barkley's pre-snap cadence.
It was tough, but that's what this team is. There's no doubt.
They had signs of the physical nature of the game all over, but they won the mental battle. Even though USC was mired deep in their own part of the field for almost the entire day, the Trojans never panicked. They waited and waited, and ultimately, they prevailed.
This is going to be the game that people talk about when they think about Barkley and this Trojan team. It's the start of something special. The players in the locker room could sense it.
For Pete Carroll, he's got a team that's going to get even more attention. It's on Carroll to keep them ready and hungry.
The profile of the team, and particularly of Barkley, is about to go way up, but something tells me they're up to the task.