Everybody's doing it these days and it's not a bad idea this July week off before the USC football team gets back for the drive to August -- and September. Perfect time to look back and name our personal all-time Trojans football team for the years we've been covering this beat. We got here in 2002 -- how's that for being in the right place at the right time -- so that's our starting point. Fourteen seasons -- 2002 through 2015.
Not as hard as we thought it would be. And yes, we did end up with some ties at positions where it just wouldn't have been fair to one or the other to not include more than one which made it easier. But not too many of those.
Some footnotes. There are 29 All-Americans on this team. Pretty impressive. Just missing were some pretty talented players like Nick Perry, Keith Rivers, Kevin Ellison, Jacob Rogers, Will Poole, Frostee Rucker, Lawrence Jackson, Chilo Rachal, Kris O'Dowd, Fili Moala, Mark Sanchez, Jeff Byers, Damian Williams, Jurrell Casey, Nickell Roby, Marcus Martin, Buck Allen, Max Tuerk and Su'a Cravens.
Here's our team:
WR: MIKE WILLIAMS, 2002-2003: The missing piece to the puzzle when the 6-foot-5, 230-pound freshman from Florida showed up and helped USC's veterans and Pete Carroll take the Trojan program to the top for a decade. BMW was pretty much unstoppable, catching 176 passes his two years here against defenders not in his league physically. Only the NCAA could stop him in a preview of what was to come for the program.
WR: DWAYNE JARRETT,:2004-2006: Not many programs had a pair of 6-5 wide receivers the way USC had in thos early years but the New Jersey guy who would become USCs first two-time All-American wide receiver most remembered for "fourth and nine" fame at Notre Dame made it look easy as he glided to the ball for three years here and 216 receptions through two Rose Bowls and a couple of national championship games.
WR: ROBERT WOODS, 2010-2012; MARQISE LEE, 2011-2013; STEVE SMITH, 2003-2006: No way to choose among this trio. Steve got the chance to shine in the biggest games, but had to share the spotlight more with all sorts of talent as he paved the way for the Serra duo of Woods, USCs all-time leading receiver with 252 catches just ahead of Biletkinoff-winner Lee's 248. They all belong on the team. We're not picking just one of them.
TE: FRED DAVIS, 2004-2007: USC's first Mackey Award winner in 2007, the 6-4, 250-pounder from Toledo helped the Trojans to a 47-5 record in his four years here that ended with one Orange Bowl national title game and three Rose Bowls, one of them a national championship game. For a tight end, Fred ran like a wide receiver.
OL: SAM BAKER, 2004-2007: How good was Sam? Became only the second USC three-time All-American (Richard Wood was the first) in his final three seasons and as a freshman, he was USC's most valuable offensive lineman. With Sam on the line, USC finished first, second, third and fourth in his four years as a Trojan. Great team guy. Terrific technician and tough as you needed him to be.
OL: MATT KALIL 2009-2011: The younger of the team's brother pair, the 6-foot-7, 295-pound left tackle not only led USC to a 10-2 record in 2011 before becoming the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, he also blocked five kicks in his career. Tough, quick, great feet and hands with a little bit of a mean streak.
OL: RYAN KALIL, 2003-2006: An undersized-to-start center and under-the-radar four-year starter who finally got his due in his senior All-American season in 2006, Ryan was the most technically proficient offensive lineman we've seen in recent years. Smart, quick, lethal. And he's carried it to the next level as the NFL's top center.
OL: TAITUSI LUTUI, 2004-2005: At 365 pounds, Arizonan Deuce was USC's biggest player until the arrival of Zach Banner and Damien Mama and even though his All-American career was just two years in length, the Trojans went 25-1 in his time here.
OL: TYRON SMITH, 2008-2010; CHARLES BROWN, 2006-2009: Charles had the All-American career, quiet as it was until his senior accolades in 2009 when he led USC to a national finish of third and fourth in back-to-back years, while Tyron had all the potential in the world that eventually played out in the NFL. Didn't want to exclude either one here.
QB: CARSON PALMER, 1998-2002/MATT LEINART, 2002-2005: These two 6-foot-5 Heisman Trophy winners from Orange County just cannot be separated. The first, Carson, the most athletic quarterback to ever play at USC, got the ball rolling as a senior in 2002 for Carroll's Trojans, who finished the season as the nation's best team to complete a Heisman career. And the second, Leinart, who followed in Carson's footsteps, made it official leading USC to a 37-2 record and two national championships -- and one runnerup spot -- in his three seasons as a precision-passing, cool-headed starter. Two different types. Two different NFL careers. But they'll share one position on this team.
RB: REGGIE BUSH, 2003-2006: The most exciting, and debated, modern Trojan, San Diegan Reggie played hard, practiced hard, did things no one else did here in recent years. Reggie made plays that we'll never forget whether his 2005 Heisman Trophy, or those wins at the end of the 2004 and all of the 2005 season, had been vacated or not. Had 99 plays in his career of 20 yards or more, averaged 31.6 yards on his 19 TDs in 2005 when he averaged a Pac-12-record 8.7 yards a carry. Might not see another one like him here.
RB: LENDALE WHITE, 2003-2005: "Thunder" to Reggie Bush's "Lightning," Coloradan LenDale led USC in rushing two of the three seasons he shared the backfield with Reggie and then to cap it off, scored a USC record 342 points on a record 52 rushing TDs and 57 total with an amazing nose for the end zone. Together, he and Reggie combined for a now-vacated NCAA record 99 TDs. LenDale had great hands and a dancer's feet for a guy weighing 225 pounds.
ATH: RHETT ELLISON, 2008-2011: A tight end, H-back and point-of-attack blocker, the 6-5, 250-pounder from Portola Valley -- and Trojan legacy as the son of Riki Gray (Ellison) -- helped lead the 2011 team (with Matt Kalil) to its 10-2 record as a tough guy-technician and maybe the best practice player we've seen at USC. Taught everybody how to do it right.
DL: SHAUN CODY, 2001-2004: The man who got it started for Carroll as his first big recruit, the Los Altos High guy played the three technique as well as anyone ever has at USC. A consensus All-American in 2004, Cody went on to play nine years in the NFL and is now a part of the Trojans game day broadcast crew. But picking USC over Notre Dame might have been the most important thing Cody did for USC.
DL: MIKE PATTERSON, 2001-2004: Played with Cody for all four years, the Los Alamitos grad with the low center of gravity earned All-American honors in 2004, just as Cody did, helping USC to a 42-9 record and two national titles before moving on to a 10-year NFL career as a first-round draft pick. ,
DL: SEDRICK ELLIS, 2004-2007: The 305-pounder from Chino was an athletic nose tackle who was pretty much unblockable through his final two All-America seasons with his unanimous selection in 2007 as USC finished 1-2-3-4 his four years here before leaving as a first-round NFL Draft pick by the New Orleans Saints.
DL: KENECHI UDEZE, 2001-2003: USC's first-year D-line coach was a consensus All-American as a 6-4, 285-pound defensive end in the 2003 season when USC won its first national title under Carroll. The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C.'s National Defensive Player of the Year, Kenechi led the nation in sacks, was fourth in tackles for loss and ninth in forced fumbles. A year earlier, he forced a USC record six fumbles.
DL: LEONARD WILLIAMS, 2013-2015: One of the two most recent Trojans to make the team, the athletic, competitive two-time All-American from Florida with the sunny disposition and a motor that would not quit, made the most of his three seasons at USC. Kept a couple of defenses viable almost by himself at times and allowed USC to stay relevant for a couple of tough, roster-depleted seasons.
LB: LOFA TATUPU, 2003-2004: Here for just two years, no one played linebacker more perfectly than the former high school quarterback, Maine transfer and USC legacy (son of Mosi Tatupu) who seemed to know where the ball was going before anyone else on the field. USC won two national championships and was 25-1 in his two years here,
LB: REY MAUALUGA, 2005-2008: An old school guy from Eureka, Rey made offenses play a little bit in fear of the way he hit people. USC was 46-6 in Rey's time here, never finishing lower than fourth, third (twice) and second in the nation. The Bednarik Award winner and national defensive player of the year in 2008 with 273 career tackles, Rey was a part of a USC physical past that pretty much left the program when sanctions hit and coachescame along who didn't seem to understand the value of playing the way Rey played.
LB: BRIAN CUSHING, 2005-2008: Rey's four-year teammate, the tough New Jersey product, like Rey, played in four straight Rose Bowls but as a starter in all four (something only Ohio State's Archie Griffin had ever done before), earning one Rose Bowl defensive MVP award (as did Rey) for his aggressive, physical play that earned him a first-round draft pick by the Texans where he became the NFL's rookie defensive player of the year in 2009. He and Rey have been missed around here. They played hard but had fun doing so.
DB: TROY POLAMALU, 1999-2002: Along with Carson on offense, two-time captain Troy led the defense that turned the Trojans around in his final two All-American seasons. One stat to note about his career: The 215-pound safety had eight blocked punts at USC. A three-time Super Bowl participant as an All-Pro Pittsburgh Steeler, he'll go down as one of the most inspirational -- and feared -- USC players ever.
DB: DARNELL BING, 2003-2005: USC finished 37-2 in the Long Beach Poly safety's three seasons, winning two national titles with one runnerup spot. But as much as the tough 6-2, 220-pounder's career will be remembered for its totality, we'll always recall that first play that came his way as a freshman in his first game at Auburn when he picked a pass off in Tiger territory, setting the tone for a young USC team's 23-0 upset of the highly regarded SEC team.
DB: T.J. MCDONALD, 2009-2012: Another Trojan legacy (son of Tim McDonald), T.J. and his dad became the first father-son Trojan All-American pairing. The 6-3, 205-pounder from Fresno, a two-time captain, led USC twice in tackles, once in interceptions and was two-time Perimeter Defensive Player of the Year and Most Inspirational Player in 2012. Another of those tough hitters USC needs to get back to.
DB: TAYLOR MAYS, 2006-2009: Another three-time All-American (2007-08-09), the 6-4, 225-pound speedy safety from Seattle who played deep center field for the Trojans as a man positioned to run people down, recorded 276 career tackles and helped USC to a 43-9 record and to three straight Rose Bowls. Another big hitter when he got the chance.
ATH: MATT GROOTEGOED, 2001-2004: A four-year starting linebacker who played like a strong safety, the 5-11, 215-pounder from Mater Dei, recorded 222 tackles (including an amazing 41.5 for losses) with an instinctive, hard-hitting style that helped USC to a pair of national titles and made Matt -- and sidekick Tatupu -- players that offenses were better off staying away from. He just had a knack, like Lofa, of knowing where the play was going.
P: TOM MALONE, 2002-2005: Another of Carroll's and Ed Orgeron's important early signees, the Lake Elsinore product averaged a USC record of 49.0 yards a pun in 2003 but that was five short of qualifying for the NCAA title. Averaged 44.0 yards a punt for his career despite injuring his leg as a junior. Of his 185 career punts, 56 were more than 50 yards and 95 pinned opponents inside their own 20. USC was 48-4 with two national titles in his time here. His booming punts in pre-game warmups intimidated road opponents starting with that 2003 Auburn game.
PK: ANDRE HEIDARI, 2011-2014: The four-year kicker from Bakersfield attempted a Pac-12 record 193 extra points and converted a Pac-12 record 187, but it's his long field goals to end a pair of USC upsets over Stanford in 2013 and 2014 that he'll be remembered for. The 2013 win over No. 5 Stanford came on a Coliseum-emptying 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left for a 20-17 win and in 2014, Andre hit a 53-yarder in Palo Alto with 2:30 left for a 13-10 USC win. Now that was some kind of fun.
KR: NELSON AGHOLOR, 2012-2014: The third in USC's recent string of All-American wide receivers between the Woods-Lee duo and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Nelson makes our team for his return ability that produced four punt return touchdowns his final two seasons in addition to his 179 career receptions that earned the Tampa, Fla. product, born in Nigeria, All-American honors in 2014 before his first-round NFL draft selection by Philadelphia.
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