Here's our USC 'Family Weekend'

Thursday's start of "Trojan Family Weekend" against Cal is the perfect time to salute a number of the guys who have stood in there so strong for USC football despite it all the past four years. Let's hear it for them from Coliseum fans.

Just two games to go, two games at the Coliseum, to enjoy and root for and get ready to maybe say goodbye to some of the greatest Trojans ever. Although it's hard to even comprehend that as we type this about players mostly listed in the program as "Juniors."

Leonard Williams just got here, it seems, as we go down the list of those who could be finishing up. His enthusiasm and sweetness and general good-guyness are as special as his talents, which may have him leave Troy as the best defensive lineman in the University's storied history.

There's no defensive award he won't be in the running for this season despite playing games-only many weeks to protect his shoulder. The Lott Impact Trophy is the latest as he could become the first Trojan to win that award inspired by another great Trojan.

And if anyone with a vote could watch Leonard, not in games but in this week's two full-pads practices where he was able to go full-go, there would be no doubt. The joy and the love of the game are so evident in the way Leonard approaches football for the sheer fun of competing at the highest level and helping his team win no matter the numbers.

USC, during what should have been the toughest time ever for Trojan football, has been so well-served by Leonard & Co. This is not what those who hoped to cripple USC football had hoped for.

Through a no-bowl season, a season followed by the worst bowl experience ever in El Paso and then a triumphant trip to Vegas in a year with four head coaches, this crew has served USC far better than USC may have deserved.

Next up is Buck Allen, from fourth team tailback just over a year ago to maybe, just maybe, an invite to New York City and the Downtown Athletic Club in December as the nation's best all-around running back. Has anyone made more of himself and his time at USC, and overcome more to do so, than Buck?

He's gone from the kid you could not make talk to you just a couple of years ago to a young man who will check in with what you're writing as he walks by now and ask you about it. Buck initiates the conversations now. With a twinkle in his eye and that tough-guy-with-a-soft-heart persona.

How great to see USC publicizing Buck as befits someone who could break through in Heisman contention. We really like matching him up with that other No. 37, Doak Walker, whose award Buck is also up for.

Hayes Pullard has an outside shot at leaving USC as the all-time tackling leader (he's at 350 now) after topping in tackles in 2011, 2013 and now 2014. But his positive attitude more than his power at the point of attack is what will be most missed as Hayes moves on to the next level.

The best thing about Hayes has been how he always got it. He got USC. He got football. He got his teammates and his coaches. And for USC fans, they've got Hayes for a couple of games in the Coliseum. That's it.

But those three are hardly alone. How about Randall Telfer who is, as Steve Sarkisian said Tuesday, "a professional playing college football." And doing it by putting his team first, despite having to give up his own ambitions to catch the football and mostly just block for Buck. And do so while not giving in to the knee issues that have plagued him.

Then there's Gerald Bowman, the Philly kid given another chance with a medical redshirt after an injury last season. The father figure of this team just turned 25 after having all sorts of misadventures before proving that his dream of playing big-time football would be a reality. He's been a steadying influence on a young secondary and like all of these guys, a joy to be around.

There's Andre Heidari, too. You don't always think of kickers at a time like this but Andre's two kicks against Stanford alone the past two seasons or his four career 50-yards-or-more kicks -- not to mention the fun he brings with his kicker's mentality every single day -- put him on the list. As do his shots at three career USC kicking marks.

We have two more juniors, Nelson Agholor and Cody Kessler, on our list although we don't think both will be gone. Nelson is more of a possibility than Cody although both could be back next year with Cody pretty much certain to be.

We'll go with Nelson first. A leader, a fearless competitor. Mother hen to the receivers and protector of the managers. A coach in waiting. And a credit to the USC program in every way a player can be. He so wants to be good, to compete, to get the best out of himself and his teammates.

Cody has surpassed by far anything his critics, much quieter now, could have imagined. His best-in-the-nation 25-TDs-to-two-interceptions performance thus far behind a young offensive line and his unwavering calmness in a couple of seasons of more offensive uncertainty than anyone would have wished on him, makes him a special Trojan.

That he's one of the five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Award given to the nation's top quarterback, along with Pac-12 buddies Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley, has him in good company. There were those who before the season wouldn't list Cody among the top five in the Pac-12. Now he's in the top five in the nation.

So there you have them. Coaches have come and gone the past three or four years, administrators as well. Same for fans. But these guys have been there all the way for USC football.

However long we have them, to watch and wonder and root and just feel good about them as Trojans, is reason enough to show up for Thursday's "Trojan Family Weekend" game against Cal (6 p.m., ESPN).

Because this is about family. A family with Leonard, Buck, Hayes, Randall, Gerald, Andre, Nelson and Cody.

And maybe, just maybe, Josh too. Thursday could be the day that, after all this time, Josh Shaw finally gets some good news. We don't want to get ahead of the story here. But we want to include Josh with the other guys. They're all Trojans. Celebrate them this weekend.

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