It's amazing how much winning can do to change your mindset. One by one in recent months we have seen young Trojan stars depart from the team, first it was Kenechi Udeze and then Mike Williams followed by Winston Justice. It wasn't too long ago that the thought of losing any one of those three players would've been cause for concern but now we simply move on. Even the news this week that Mike Williams could be coming back was received nicely but nobody felt like we needed Mike in order to be national title contenders. After the Cotton Bowl in 1995 Keyshawn Johnson gave serious consideration to leaving early for the NFL. If he did, is there anyone out there who thinks the Trojans would have been in the Rose Bowl against Northwestern in 1996? Times have certainly changed when the potential return of Williams, arguably the best receiver in USC history, is viewed as a welcome exclamation point to what should already be an outstanding offense. We saw a glimpse this spring of what the future will look like even without Mike and judging by the performances of Steve Smith, Whitney Lewis and others I would say we're going to be just fine although there's no denying the addition of Williams would simply take this offense to another level.
We've seen the impact of the national championship this spring in recruiting. It's been a longtime since USC received this much interest from so many of the top players, not only in California but throughout the country. One of the testaments to the popularity of the Trojans right now is how many out of state players are proclaiming their interest in USC. Many of these out of state recruits haven't even been recruited by the coaches to this point but for those who have received interest it makes an impact. When the Trojans make a call to Dan Doering he not only notices but his friends notice and make a big deal of the fact that the national champs are calling all the way from California. When Pete Carroll shows up at a Nike Camp you hear players whisper "Pete Carroll is here, you know that means the camp is bigtime." There is a certain aura that comes with being the flavor of the month and the Trojans are definitely capitalizing on it right now.
Of course, the current players get to bask in the glow of the title as well. A trio of Trojans (Leinart, Cody, Malone) were even treated to a weekend in the Arizona desert as a reward for being named to the Playboy All-American team. Everywhere they go in Los Angeles the USC players sport their shiny championship rings and receive an endless stream of compliments and congratulations on a job well done. I'm sure that's something that doesn't get old.
One of the great things about being a national champion is that you get all off-season to celebrate. No matter what happens between January and the end of August there is no way that you can lose a football game. It is eight straight months of wearing the mantle with pride and knowing that you have the upper hand in any discussion of college football. It's been a long time since we had an opportunity to experience this feeling but Trojan fans have settled into it like a comfortable old shoe. We know how to be champions, we remember the feeling well and we are glad to have it back.