Full quotes from Darreus Rogers' press conference:
So Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. What was the first Rose Bowl memory you have as a child?
Probably when I watched Joe McKnight play when he called a swing pass, fumbled it, and picked it back up because at the moment to make a play like that he started to panic and fall on the ball. Once he picked it up and I saw him run for like 60-plus, I was like, wow, that's a great play. Unfortunately, he passed away. It was sad. It just shows how explosive USC could be at times.
When you were thinking about coming to play at USC, was the Rose Bowl a memory you had?
Absolutely. Playing in big games are the things I like to do. Coming to USC shows if you can play with the best of the best. And I felt like coming here, it's a great opportunity for me to showcase my talent against the best.
What's the Rose Bowl for a guy like you mean, growing up in this community and seeing all the games where there are so many other players not being able to play in this?
Oh, man, guys like Mike Williams, me wearing No. 1 and wanting to be like him when I grew up, and the fact that I have the opportunity to play in that type of game is amazing. A blessing. My family and friends are happy that they're able to make it to a game. We're right up the corner up the street. Them being able to see me is awesome.
Have you ever been to a Rose Bowl?
Not at all.
Have you visualized your experience and what it's going to be like walking down that tunnel for you? Because this is going to be your final time putting on the uniform?
Yeah, I felt like I should go out there and play my game like I played every other. Do what I can for my team and put my team in the best situation to win this game.
Lastly, on the Rose Bowl, when you hear that phrase, what's that mean to you?
History, always go down in history. To win it is just a plus. I feel like if we go out there to win this game, I'll be known as a Trojan for life.
Your thoughts on playing in the Rose Bowl game?
Excitement, having fun, and history. Those three words I always think about playing in the Rose Bowl.
What do you think of when you see the Penn State secondary when you watch them on film?
Great secondary. Probably one of the best secondaries we've faced all season. We have to be out there playing 110% and focused at all times.
Third downs, perfect time for conversions. How much do you pride yourself in that being a vital aspect of your game and what goes into it?
Just thanking my offensive coordinator for looking for me on third downs and using me for my strengths, going across the middle then making those tough catches. Third down is a big type of down. That's my type of game. I feel like I'm just trying to keep things going on and trying to go 11 for 11 and 12 for 12 in these games. I feel like that's my strength of the games moving the chains.
Do you think Sam helps you with that?
Oh, yeah, Sam has a lot to do with it. Me building that confidence with him during the season, showing him on third down I can keep the chains moving. After that, we just felt a little connection on third downs. Got a big feeling that the ball might be coming to me. But for him to make those type of plays and escape the pocket, doing things like that, man, it makes it even better, a better chance for me to get the ball.
In talking to some of the guys yesterday, they were really kind of embracing the fact that you guys started 1-3 because it helped to be where you are. Whereas Penn State was kind of the story is the nine-game winning streak. Why do you think you guys have been so aware like you don't want to get off to a bad start?
I mean, everything happens for a reason, like I said. Us going 1-3 early on the season made us tougher. We played with a chip on our shoulder the whole game. We went on a winning streak, and we felt like that's what we needed to do. And it felt good to us, and it felt like this is what it should be, and make the quarterback change that was best for the team. I felt like when Sam Darnold got the job, he made everything around him better, including us.
You seem to be one of the more excited players for the Rose Bowl, at least on social media. It seems like every day you post you can't wait.
What's it mean to go out as a senior in the Rose Bowl?
I mean, to start where I started from my freshman year and to end up here, man, I mean, someone like me should be excited every day. To have the opportunity to play in a Rose Bowl, I just feel like it's just going down in history, you know? I just can't explain the feeling that I have for this game, and I just still can't wait. I think about it every morning, every day, just something to look forward to. Just another opportunity for me to showcase my talent and have fun for my last game.
How do you make sure you don't get overexcited and overhyped because it is such an important game?
Oh, I mean, these events keep me calm, keep my mind off of it, going to Disneyland and doing all these events. Because if I didn't, I don't know what I'd be doing right about now. But these events keep me calm. Got a couple events today, and just having fun with my teammates and my brothers.
Would you say the practice is the same as it would be going into any other game, or is it different somehow?
The vibe is the same. Take the same approach each and every day as if it was a regular game. But it's a bigger game. We just have to do what we've been doing that got us here.
When you look at Penn State's defense, what stands out to you?
Physical, play hard each and every down. Guys have great ball skills and they play as a team. That's something that I kind of struggled with when guys are playing as a team and come every down strong and feel like you've got to try to pick them apart, man, get in their heads.
Two of the best offenses in the country. If this turns into a shootout, how confident are you and how much fun will that be?
It will be great, man. If it comes down to 50-50 balls, that's what we do, big receivers, and guys play hard every down. It's going to be a great game.
Sam's one of the better quarterbacks in the country. What do you attribute that to and how impressed are you with his play?
Very impressed. I feel like he can do it all: run, pass. It looks like he can escape and the play is never over with him. I feel like that's what makes him elusive and a different type of breed. He's just amazing. I'll be out there running the route, and I think the play's over, I see him run out the pocket(indiscernible), and I'm like, wow, he's still up. And that's what makes him perfect.
A lot of people back East are saying this Rose Bowl means Penn State's back. How fun is it to be part of this historic game?
Oh, man, it's amazing. I'm very blessed. I feel great to be a part of this. Going down in history of all times. If we win this game, it will just be better for us, better for me, better for my teammates. We all can just go down in USC history and make that 24 to 25 on the wall over there.
How impressed have you been with what Penn State has done over there? They had a similar path, struggled and then rolled off nine in a row?
It's amazing. They're basically the same team as us. If we don't go in there and focus, things could get shaky for us. But I feel like our team is focused. We've been ready. It's been hard since bowl practice one. And I feel like we've been doing the same. So we've just got to come out and execute.
You guys were a good first half team; they're a second half team. How important is it to get off to a good start?
Very important. They're a great second half team. I've seen them come back from big games against Ohio State, and it was like: Wow. Our coach always told us this is a play-hard team. Just because we're up in the first half doesn't mean this game is over. We have to play four quarters to win this game.
You talk about your four years, let's go back to the year before when you weren't in school. Could you have dreamed or was this the dream?
I mean, I had a visual at the time. The only thing that was on my mind when I was out was just getting into school. I wasn't even thinking about football. It was more academics. When I got in, that's when I could start thinking about football. Establishing a name for myself and making history here.
Could you talk about you going over, I think it was with your brother-in-law or something, over to North High?
He's like my uncle. His name's Arman Youngblood. Every day I had no school for a year, so I would wake up and just go work out twice a day every day to make sure I stayed in shape. Make sure I still looked good for my coaches. I was able to go anywhere else in the country, but I felt that I should stick to USC because that's where my heart was at. Me getting my degree and being able to play in the Rose Bowl, my last year, going through a lot, I just felt like, man, everything happened for a reason.
Are you finishing your degree now? How far away are you from it?
I'm done. I just finished my last semester, so I do have my degree, and now I can just focus on football, which I feel like is amazing. That's my ultimate goal. Knock school out of the way and just focus on football, because that's the easy part.
Did you dream that you could finish school after having the academic problem coming in?
Yeah, that was always a dream. That's why I stuck with USC because I wanted to get my degree from here, and for me to get my degree was just another achievement. My goals that I could check off.
Do you Marvin Pollard (indiscernible), the senior?
Yes, I do.
Has he ever talked to you about academics?
He always tells me it won't be easy. You have people around you which will help you. Use them. Which I always did. I stayed with the tutor, extra hours, doing the work out on the field, so I just approached school and football as one.
Did Marvin tell you about his academics?
No, he did not. Didn't even know that.
He had to go to summer school. That September I did a piece on him, but he was going to get it all done, dadada, and you kind of wonder, well, is he lying to himself? Then at Christmas time he calls me in the office, and he said: I wanted to tell you I'm on the honors list. So he did everything. The light went on.
So I thought maybe he would have told you that story.
Huh-uh, I didn't even hear about that story.
I assume you can go to one of these pre-camp combine sessions. Have you got that set up yet?
No, I'm just focused on the Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl week, that's all I'm about right now.
Can you relate to the guys, and there's only a couple, who are passing on their bowl games?
That's something that never crossed my mind. I'm here to play for myself and my brothers. Any game I can play in, I'm willing to play. It's just more opportunity. I also want to go down in history at USC. It's not all about myself. It's about my teammates and my brothers and winning this game for them.
When you saw or heard about McCaffrey, did it surprise you or did you have any kind of reaction?
Oh, I had no reaction at all. That's a decision that they made for personal reasons. I'm not sure why. But I feel like that's what they wanted to and they felt like that was the best for them. So whatever they decided to do, I'm just going with the flow.
Have you talked to any of your teachers? Not coaches, but teachers from high school?
Oh, yeah, I always do.
About how you've become a good student?
Oh, yeah. They knew I always had it in me. It was just me putting in the time and the effort, which grew up on me as I got older and mature. I just worked hard at it. And it was something I struggled in. Once I worked hard – when you work hard at something and you get better at it, that's what happened. I got better at it, school became easy, and now I'm here graduating.
What is your major?
Do you talk to any of the kids back in high school about paying attention to academics?
Not at all. Not right now because I don't have the time, but once I get the time and I'm able to talk to the kids, that's something I'm looking forward to going back to do.
When Sam and Max kind of both went through the year, it seems like they've done a better job distributing the ball more evenly to all receivers. What's changed there?
Oh, man, just getting opportunities. Coach is using every weapon we have on the field. You have JuJu on one side, me, you have Deontay Burnett in the slot, and Sam Darnold at quarterback and Justin Davis and Ronald Jones at running back, any one of us could pop off at any time. When we all get the ball, it makes the team a whole lot better.
When Sam did take over, what changed for the offense?
I feel like once he got the ball, he made the whole team better. Not just the offense, but defense too. I felt like everyone felt like, okay, this is the guy. You can't change another quarterback now, so we have to put it all together. We had a team meeting, talked about it. You have to do this for the brotherhood and the team, and if you want to be something special, play as one.
Have you talked to Max since he committed?
Yes, I did. I congratulated him. That's my guy. We came in together. So I told him keep working hard, you're a great quarterback. Just keep working.
When I talk to your teammates, everyone mentions a brotherhood, so that tells me of the closeness that you gentlemen have.
Yes, brotherhood is something that we take seriously. A lot of people don't understand. A brotherhood could take a team a long way. It's the chemistry that you need to have with your team for everybody to be on the same page. Not just on the field, but off the field. We hang out together every day, try to make sure everyone on the team knows each other. Once we get on the field, it's just like a big old party for us.
Speaking of big old party, you're going to have a big old party come game day, too, because everyone is saying they're back where they belong because it's been a while since the Trojans have been here?
Yes, it's been a while. This is a party that we've been trying to plan on for quite some years. Since I've been here my four years. For me to go out like this is basically a big bang, and I'm just trying to do it the right way. I feel like this is the way – I didn't imagine, but I'm very happy and very blessed for this to happen.
There is a premium on your time this week. You don't have a lot of time to rest because, like yesterday, Disneyland, today you're here. Tomorrow we all go eat at Lawry's.
Yes, we do. But with the high emotions going on, we're not so tired, man. We're happy to be here, having a great time. Every day we're just taking it in. Especially with a person like me and all the seniors, man, it's not a time for us to be tired. It's time to cherish the moments and have fun with them.
Have you thought about what it would be like to go out on that field one last time in Pasadena?
I can't even imagine. But I feel like, man, what a journey it's been for me. All this same class that I came in with and to go off in Pasadena with a victory, man, it would mean a lot to me. Touching and emotional. Growing up I always wanted to go down as one of USC's wide receivers in history, one of the best, and I feel like I have a chance to do it. It's up to us and my teammates to go out there and do it.
Can you talk about the turmoil through the years you've been here?
Say that again?
What the turmoil was like, can you look back at it, especially the way you guys are ending up?
Yeah, I mean, it's like a slump that we were in that was hard to get out. Went through a lot of coaching changes, and finally we hired Coach Helton, a guy that I knew before he was a head coach and the character and type of person he was. When I found out he got the job, I was like: This is the hire we've been waiting for.
At the beginning of the season it was shaky. The fans and the media were throwing him down. But he had us. He called us his horses. We pat him on the back and said everything's going to be okay. We got him. Went on a winning streak, turned things around, and everybody started to look at SC like, wow, this team could be something. Now we're sitting here at the Rose Bowl with an opportunity to make history.
There were people even early in the season who said this team has JuJu as a receiver and a bunch of warm bodies, not knowing you and a couple of the other guys. Did you guys ever talk about that and think about, hey, they don't know we can catch the ball too?
Not at all, man. The team and the coaches and the players know the type of talent we have. It was just a matter of showcasing it in the game. It was like, wow, this team could be very dangerous. I never was the type of guy that needed other people to tell me what I am or what I need to be. I was the type of guy that just when it's my time, I'll show you my plays and my actions. In a matter of time people will see whatever's in the dark come to light. I felt like it was my time to showcase my talent.
So much attention is paid to Sam, obviously for the obvious reasons. But when you guys started, the left tackle wasn't healthy. Your center was learning how to play center. As those two guys got better, the team got better. How much do you think that had to do with the improvement on the offense?
It had a lot to do with it. When everybody's healthy and we're all in there playing a game, we're a tough team to beat. We can imagine what this could be like if everything was just 100%. That's how life works. Everything is not perfect. You have to go through a couple obstacles to get to where you need to get. Man, I mean, sky's the limit for us if everything's going right.
Justin was just saying that Sam off the field it's hard to get a word out of him. How is he different on the field?
Sam is a quiet, sarcastic type of cat. We'll be in practice, and say he overthrows me a pass, and I'll be like, Man, it's all good. We'll get it down. And he'll be like, Yeah, I thought you'd be more athletic, or something like that. Something just to mess around. But, oh, man, Sam has a great personality. He's a funny cat.
People have started to notice your success on third down. Is there something about that particular down that makes you dependable? You're really high percentage.
It's just my type of down. Third down. Big downs. Downs that I like to get. I feel like third downs are just as important as touchdowns, as sacks, as anything. Just trying to find a place where I can fit in. I feel like third downs is where it's at.
Have you been able to look at film to see how much third downs catches have made a difference in the games?
Not at all. I just watch the plays, watch the film, look at where I can get better and where I struggle in my game. I don't really look for the third down type of stuff.
Is that something you aim to do or did that just start developing where you became the third down guy?
I didn't know 100% that I made that many third down conversions. Because in the game, it goes by fast and you're not really sure what's happening. But I think I saw a tweet and I was like, wow, 8 for 8? Let me try to keep it going. Now I go into the game on third down and thinking like I've got to make the down. I'm not trying to mess it up. I'm trying to stay 100% the whole season. So it added a little chip to my shoulder and made me focus even harder.
Being a senior, what's it mean to you to end your career on the Rose Bowl?
History, just going down in history. And making my mom proud.
How tall are you?
What do you weigh now?
Is that what you weighed all year?
I came in about 195. I was a little slimmer. Gained a little weight. Because I wanted to be a big, physical type of guy. I felt like if I get stronger, it could make me a little better. It actually makes my hands stronger too.
You've always played bigger than you are, I know that. How big are the hands, remind me?
10, 10 inch hands, pretty big hands. Not the biggest, but it's enough to get the job done (laughing).
I asked the same question to JuJu. Did the huddle feel different out there on the field with Sam in there kind of commanding things?
Oh, yeah, it felt a little different, man. Just having him in the huddle and just seeing the determination in his eyes when you're talking to him. He throws an incomplete pass, and you can see the short memory he has and he's ready to move on to the next play and make the next play better or greater.
So does he play like he's older than a red-shirt freshman who has a maturity about him?
I find myself counting on him a lot in the game and forget that I'm an older dude. I'm just like, let's go, Sam. I need you, man. Even on the big brother, he's like the little big brother that's mature and puts things and gets things right and organized.
It seems he's really good at spreading the ball to all the receivers this year in terms of everyone getting touches.
Oh, yeah, this is my career high. I feel like he's not out there trying to look for one guy. I feel like he's reading the coverages, finding the open man, preaching that read. Coaches call plays for certain type of players in the game. But once the option's not there, he's moving on. It's like he's thinking twice as fast as everyone on the field. I think that's what makes him great and all the success he has.
Do you feel like that makes you guys more unpredictable?
Yeah, it makes it hard on defenses to scout us, find out who they need to stop. Everybody can't just double team JuJu because you have Deontay Burnett in the slot, you get to watch Danny Imatorbhebhe at tight end, me on the other side, and two great running backs, so it's like, wow, who are you going to stick? Who are you going to double team? It makes the offense more explosive.
JuJu and Deontay were double teaming as the season has gone along, because Alabama I remember you guys were talking about he was getting like double clouds -
Oh, yeah, JuJu, if I was a defensive coordinator, you better put another safety over the top of him, because he can go off at any moment. But being on the other side, I feel like I can do the same thing, spread the field, open it up. If they want to cloud both of us, it opens up the run games. If you want to load the box, we're spread out. We have answers for everything, I feel like. Coach Tee Martin does a great job of calling the plays and putting us in situations to execute. I just appreciate that from him.
You said you were the third-down king. How do you feel that's helped this team?
Oh, man, third down is a big down. It keeps the drive moving, game-changing down. I feel like I'll take that title. I'll take anything. Anything I can be great at for my team, I'm willing to do. I'll take the title of being the third-down king.
Why do you think that is? Is it because you've got big sort of hands to do all because guys are going to jam you and it's going to be tight on third down? Why do you think that is?
Just the big body and the strong hands. I may not look open, but I feel like I'm open just because my great ball skills and body control. Third down, that's a down where everything gets tight, everything gets quick. If the ball is in my area code, I feel like I can snatch it, put it away and make those tough catches.
One of your toughest catches was that Colorado game where it was underthrown and you reach over the guy's helmet. I can't remember if that was a third down play.
It was second down, but it was second down and 15 where the defense knew that we were going deep, and it just dropped six. Sam Darnold just gave me that look, like: Regardless, I'm going to throw it. And I took the ball out of the air and I told him, man, I've got you. We're all right. And came out with the victory.
Is that your favorite play this year for you personally?
What is it?
My favorite play would have to be when we played against Washington and there was a third down. It was close. King, a great corner, we were just going at it, and he had inside of my shoulder pad and I had his shoulder pad. The ref called a defensive pass interference on him, which could have gone either way. I felt like it was great coverage and he should have let it play. I don't know how, the ball was coming inside, but I jumped and swooped it as if I was a DB. And I was like: Wow, did I really just do that? And every time I watch it on TV, I can't explain to anyone how I did it. It just happened.
In the Colorado one, if you don't get that shot, they might pick that off and get that ball mid-field down four?
Yeah, that too. I'd probably say I call it a tie. But I feel like the bigger game was the Washington one. And those corners are the top corners in the nation. For me to make a play like that just shows you that SC can compete with the best.
Can I have your name and what you play?
Darreus Rogers, wide receiver.
For you, how have you seen Tee's role evolve over the season?
From him being a coordinator to a position coach, seeing him in the offense more. He's tougher. Him being our receiver coach and offensive coordinator is a plus, I feel like. He can tell us little things earlier that's going on, what he likes to do. Our receivers like to go deep, and he likes to go deep. I feel like I lucked out for my position coach to be the offensive coordinator. JuJu will tell you, too, man, Coach Tee is a great person, great guy and always works hard to put us in positions to be successful. I want to thank him for that.
Has it been different from prior years or is it kind of the same?
It's a little different because we don't really get to spend as much time with him off the field because he has to game plan for the weeks. He's in the office all day and it's more of focusing on offense than small details. That's why we have vets like me, JuJu, some older guys, Steven Mitchell to help the young guys do the smaller things after practice to have more time. So basically he has many helpers like me and JuJu to coach the young dudes up. So it's not so much of a stress on him. We try to make sure he's all right and not stressing so much so he can focus on the offense and we can come out our best.
How would you say this coaching staff – how hard do they work? I know Coach Helton says he sleeps in his office. Do you see their hard work?
Oh, yeah, man. Sleeping, they're always in the office. I'm not sure they go home at all. I feel like that's the type of coaches we need. That's what makes us great, how they do and what they do makes us great. It rubs off on us. We see them working hard, we're going to work hard. We see them staying up late in their playbook, and we're going to do that. It's like big brother/little brother thing or father/son where we're going to watch their movements and it's going to rub off on us.
Give us the scouting report. Who is looking good to you of the younger guys?
I can't call it right now. They are all good. But someone I can say that could fill my spot would be Tyler Vaughns. Same type of guy, big radius, just a little skinnier. Has great strong hands, great route runner, faster than me. I feel like he has the confidence and the radius to go out there and be great.
What was the best ride at Disneyland that you rode yesterday?
The best ride, Space Mountain. I felt like it was fun. It was pitch-black dark. Football players like to get scared, see what can scare us, and Space Mountain wasn't scary, but it was pitch-black and the ride was fast. Hey, I liked it.
Were there any big guys that you did not expect to be scared that were freaking out?
Well, Roy Hemsley, but he was too big to fit on the ride, so he couldn't get on.
Yeah, they said he was too big, he couldn't ride it. I was like, dang. I was going to get off with him, but I had to get on because it looked too fun. So I had to leave him watching. I told him how it went, and he was like, All right. He said, If I can't get on another ride, I'm going to be mad. But he got on everything else.
When you look at the schedule of events for a bowl game, what was the most exciting to you?
Disneyland. Last time I went to Disneyland I was about four or five. So when I did go back it was like, wow. It's all new to me again. It's changed. I was able to go home during Christmastime, enjoy the holidays and see family and friends, so I had a great time with my teammates. It just showed me how blessed I am to be here and playing in the Rose Bowl. My team is my family. I wouldn't want to go to Disneyland with no one else but my teammates and my family.
Do you like the buildup of all of this, the bowl game and all the events ahead and preparing for one thing?
Yeah, I mean, as day two, I'm liking it. Probably as it gets closer to the game I'm going to be like, all right, I think it's time to plan for the game and focus on the game. There are a lot of distractions. But it's still early on in the week. So I'm having fun with it. Who complains about cameras and getting interviewed? I love it right about now, so I'm not complaining.
With the Beef Bowl, are you going to stop yourself, or are you going: I'm going to eat as much as I can?
I'm going ham. Eating as much as I can. I'm going to run it off the next day in practice. So I can't wait. That's what I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
What is unique about this team? What is different from any other team you played for?
How we faced adversity and stuck together as a team and being a brotherhood. When a team usually goes 1-3, which everybody has high expectations for us against Alabama and we come out there and lose and you see the team go down and start pointing fingers. But we came together. We came together and told each other: Coaches coach, players play, and we need to get things together and turn it around.
I feel like that's what we did. We stayed as a team. The offense encouraged the defense, and the defense encouraged the offense, and all of a sudden things started to turn around for us.
Do you know your wingspan?
Not at this moment, I do not know.
As one of the older guys that's kind of been through a lot, how much does this Rose Bowl make it special for you to kind of go out on that note?
Oh, man, from where we came from in my senior class, I mean, it's an honor and a blessing for me to end my career here at USC in history. I'm going to give it my all. Without a doubt, I feel like this team has the ability to do what it takes to win this game. Penn State's a great opponent. But we're USC, we're on a winning streak, and I feel like we can keep it going.
Did you play basketball at Carson?
Yes, I did.
Who was your coach?
His name was Dominique Street (phonetic). I played my 10th grade year, and then I decided if I wanted to be the best, I needed to focus on one sport so I could train during the off-season, and I chose football.
How good were you?
I was very good. I played for a team called the Hub City Gym Rats. I started at nine, and we were the number three team in the nation at the time. Basketball was my sport.
They were called what?
The Hub City Gym Rats.
Out of Carson?
It was out of Compton.
Did you actually live Compton or Carson?
Compton. I went to school in Carson, and it was an opportunity to showcase my talent.
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.
Keely Eure is a broadcast journalism student at the Annenberg School at USC. You can follow her on Twitter at @keelyismyname.