Anthony Sarao survived the gauntlet that is the traditional senior tunnel that all seniors endure on their way out of Howard Jones Field after the final practice of their USC careers. But the linebacker was struggling with the realization that he’d never suit up on that practice field again.
When asked how he felt, Sarao was hesitant.
“I don’t know. It’s like, ‘Damn.’ You’re here with your teammates. The last time on this field. It’s going to hit me once I sit down and look back like ‘Damn I ain’t never going to practice on that field again.’”
The one consolation is next week’s opportunity in the Holiday Bowl against Wisconsin.
“At least I get to go down to San Diego and have fun with my brothers at the bowl game, so that’s going to be a good time,” Sarao said. “It’s a good opportunity for a lot of us seniors to put good film on tape and just to put our USC defense on film.
“Coach [Peter] Sirmon is doing a hell of a job right now. The whole defense is feeling a lot smoother out there. It’s just been good. It’s been a good vibe, so I can’t just wait to play this game.”
The Trojans are expecting a physical game with the Badgers using a lot of sets that feature fullbacks and tight ends, in some ways similar to Stanford.
“They’ve got a fullback and they like to run the ball. They are big up front. I think they are well coached. They’re a good team and we’re going to get after it.”
This week of practice has been unique for Sarao because of Sirmon being temporarily being bumped from Sarao’s position coach up to defensive coordinator.
“It’s great. You just wished he could teach everybody else like he’s doing now,” Sarao said. “Now he gets to tell everybody the stuff he tells us. Now that the whole defense gets to hear it, it just brings us together and has us on the same page.”
“He teaches stuff about being a man and I think that’s great, especially for somebody like me,” Sarao said. “A lot of those values I’m still trying to learn right now and I think Coach Sirmon does a great job of that. Everything is not about football.”
It’s one of the lessons the New Jersey native will take away and hopes people consider when they remember everything that happened during his time at USC — “the situation” as he calls it.
“That’s the name of my five years. That’s what you could call it. Five years of a Trojan player that was recruited in the 2011 class. Their story is going to be significant compared to everybody else."
Head coach Clay Helton called the senior group the definition of 'Fight On!' and said he'll never forget how they have handled everything thrown at them "with utmost class."
“It’s been a rough ride, but it’s been good," Sarao said. "You always learn more through the pain. You’ve got to go through the pain to get to the success. It’s been good.
“I came out here with just myself and was able to adjust to everything and was able to stand tall throughout everything. No matter what happens to me, I’m always going to keep my head up. I’m going to always keep fighting. Coming to SC, coming so far from Jersey and where I come from I think is what is what is going to define me.”
With that, Sarao departed for the final time.