USC trio in 1983's 'greatest-ever NFL draft'

USC trio of Bruce Matthews, Don Mosebar and Joey Browner were a part of that historic 1983 day when the greatest class -- not to mention first round -- was drafted in NFL history.

"The greatest draft in NFL history," it's been called in a ranking that's held up for 32 years now. There's the documentary "Elway to Marino" that highlights the quarterback-heavy draft that will stand -- maybe forever as the No. 1 of all-time.

And yet as we look to USC's return to multiple first-rounders Thursday -- something that's happened 23 times over the years -- USC fans can look back to that legendary 1983 draft and realize it wasn't all about quarterbacks.

It was also about USC, with Troy quietly producing three of the first-rounders that year, tying Dan Marino's Pittsburgh team for the most of any school -- Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, center Don Mosebar and corner Joey Browner.

Of course, it would have been easy to get upstaged in a draft with six quarterbacks selected in the first round -- three now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- John Elway, Jim Kelly and Marino with the trio, along with the Patriots' Tony Eason -- leading their teams to 11 of the next 16 Super Bowls.

Two other Hall of Famers -- Eric Dickerson and Darrell Green -- were also in that class as first-round selections along with eight-rounder Richard Dent.

There were two other pretty decent QBs in the class in Todd Blackledge and Ken O'Brien. And one more in that class, Nebraska center Dave Rimington, went on to have an award named after him for college football's best center.

As they say with good reason -- it was the "best NFL draft ever."

Here's a quick look at the three Trojans whose careers fit right in with the quality of this draft:

*** MATTHEWS: One of the most durable linemen in NFL history, the Arcadia product played 19 years with Houston, the team that selected him ninth, and Tennessee after his All-American career as and offensive tackle at USC. His 296 games played are the most ever by an NFL lineman. Selected to the USC Hall of Fame in 2005, the NFL Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year nominated, and made it to a Super Bowl. Never missed an NFL game. From one of the elite families in football history with older brother Clay Jr., and nephew Clay III, also moving from USC stardom to long-time NFL careers. Coached with both the Titans and Oilers after his playing days. His 14 Pro Bowl selections tie for the most ever with Merlin Olsen, Tony Gonzalez and Peyton Manning.

*** MOSEBAR: Rimington may have the award but it was Mosebar, a Visalia product, who proved himself at center after a career at USC that earned him a unanimous selection as a 1982 All-American offensive tackle, giving the Trojans two All-American tackles that year with Matthews. A 26th selection by the Raiders, just ahead of Marino, the rangy 6-foot-7, 305-pound Mosebar played 13 seasons for LA/Oakland, earning Pro Bowl selections in 1986, 1990 and 1991. Like Matthews, helped his team to one Super Bowl.

*** BROWNER: The fourth brother in a football family, he and younger brother Keith came to USC after their older brothers attended Notre Dame, Joey was named USC's MVP in 1982 before his selection as the 19th player in that 1983 draft. His 10 seasons in the NFL, nine with Minnesota, the team that drafted him, and one with Tampa Bay, saw Browner named to the Peo Bowl six straight seasons (1985-90) and earned All-Madden honors four times. He recorded more than 1,100 tackles in the NFL and earned a spot as the 21st player in the Vikings Ring of Honor and has had his number retired there. Joey has been nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame nine times. At USC, he played in a secondary with the likes of Ronnie Lott, Dennis Smith and Jeff Fisher.

Nine of the 1983 first-rounders, over and above the Hall of Famers, finished as Pro Bowlers for a total of 15 in all including Mosebar and Browner. And there were plenty of players down in the draft including eight other Trojans led by fifth-rounder Riki Ellison (Gray).

In checking with NFL historians, just one other class seems to be in the discussion: the 1957 draft, which is named by former GM Ernie Accorsi, who drafted Elway. "In 1957, 12 teams drafted eight Hall of Famers including two -- Jim Brown and Jim Parker -- considered the best all-time at their positions." And two teams drafted a pair of Hall of Famers each -- Cleveland with Brown and Henry Jordan and Philadelphia, with Sonny Jurgensen and Tommy McDonald.

What distinguishes the 1983 class, in addition to the flashy quarterbacks at the top, is the depth of talent with at least a dozen throughout who distinguished themselves, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Those would be, in addition to USC's Ellison: Round 2: Henry Ellard; Roger Craig; Leonard Marshall; Darryl Talley; Round 3: Albert Lewis; Dave Duerson; Charles Mann; Round 4: Tom Thayer; Greg Townsend; Round 5: Ellison; Round 6: Reggie Roby; Babe Laufenberg; Round 8: Dent; Mark Clayton; Mark Bortz; Round 10: Tim Krumrie; Mervyn Fernandez; Round 11: Jesse Sapolu; Round 12: Karl Mecklenburg.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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