Just over one year ago then sophomore receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster broke a bone in his hand in the game against California. Two days later Smith-Schuster had surgery with a screw and a plate inserted into his hand and five days after that he remarkably played against Arizona.
Saturday night in the Rose Bowl Smith-Schuster caught a first quarter pass from Sam Darnold, good for 28 yards but he desperately tried to make it 29. At the end of the play Smith-Schuster dove for the end zone, fell just short, and suffered three different injuries.
"[I suffered] my hip pointer, bruised my shoulder, sprained my wrist, all in that one play where I went deep and stretched trying to score a touchdown," Smith-Schuster said. "Honestly, I thought I had the touchdown, but they didn't give it to me.
"Anyways, right now it is just more of the hip. I got my shoulder back, my wrist is coming back a lot better."
That hip injury has been a painful one for Smith-Schuster to endure.
"[The most painful is] my hip,' he said. "I have a hip pointer and it takes time. It happened in the game, early in the game, and I've been off and on about it. Today I was kind of back on my feet, kind of pushed it a little bit more, it's just a matter of time, you keep pushing it.
"I've been through so many injuries. I'll say this, this is probably the hardest. I was in so much pain. Obviously a hand is a hand, but I think for me, your legs are more important. It was tough. I just thought about my teammates and how much they were fighting out there. Every time UCLA scored it just pushed my mind to just fight through the pain. Pain is temporary, it doesn't last forever, maybe a day, maybe a minute, maybe an hour."
Despite the intense pain, Smith-Schuster returned from the locker room and made it clear he was going back in.
"I knew I was coming back," he said. "After I knew what was happening and how much pain I was in, I was like, 'You can do anything possible, you fight just to get through this game.'
"I told [the trainers] I was going to get back in the game regardless, whether you held me out or not."
He gave the coaches a similar response.
"I just tell them, 'Juju's good.' Or I just walk on the field and pull somebody out."
Playing through pain isn't ideal, and Smith-Schuster would like to get back to what he calls the "old me."
"Obviously you are not 100 percent in practice during the season, but I just want to get back to being able to run normal, top speed, make those cuts and make those catches.
"I'm definitely not there yet."
On any given day, Smith-Schuster can spend up to three and a half hours rehabbing injuries before practice.
"I wake up at like 6:30, get there at 7, yesterday it was from 7 to 10, today it was from 7 to 8, and then I came back later in the day to do another hour and a half, two hours," he said. "I am slowly getting better so I start with the bike for like 5 or 10 minutes, do a couple of stretches, foam rolling, get a little massage, work on the part that I need to work on, and then I do a lot of core workouts for my back and also my hip, so it helps that a lot. You have this thing called P's where you put your hand in it for your wrist. And then for my shoulder I do shoulder exercises, we have this thing called 'true stretch' and it helps a lot, stretching different parts of your body. What I like doing the most is the underwater treadmill, it's pretty cool."
Smith-Schuster wants to play at the next level and knows there is a balance between playing hard all the time and having longevity in the sport.
"Obviously my coaches tell me to slow down. If I want to be able to play as long as possible, 10 to 15 years hopefully if God's willing to take my body that far. If it does mean I have to sacrifice some practice or sacrifice finishing, that is something I may have to do."
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for more updates on this Trojan team heading into the Notre Dame game.
USCFootball.com has been covering USC Trojans football and recruiting for 20 years. Our expert team with Gerard Martinez, Dan Weber, Shotgun Spratling, Keely Eure and publisher Ryan Abraham keep you up to speed on everything Trojan football.