Walking to Heritage Hall in the bright, warm, California sunshine I could feel the anticipation starting to grow, the first Trojan Flashback Football Camp was now only moments from beginning. I had been planning and preparing for about 9 weeks for this camp. I had found out about TFFC on this website and registered online at www.sctrojanfootball.com., paid my registration fee, and gotten updates from Rod Sherman. I had also begun training a bit more than usual, watched my diet, and cut out the beer. I felt fairly ready for the challenge of camp. I really didn't know what to expect. Would it be physically demanding? Competitive? How difficult and demanding would the coaches be? I certainly didn't have to wait long for the answers to my questions. Such was the anticipation as I opened the huge glass door to Heritage Hall.
Whenever you enter Heritage Hall you feel that you are indeed in a reverent place. All the treasures of past Trojan Glories on display for mere mortals to enjoy. Now I and the other campers were about to enter the inner circle.
We were told by Greg Bukowski, the assistant camp director to meet in the Varsity Club, a room right of the main display area, at 2:00 pm. We were first issued a playbook. This was an organized binder with our name on the front, which contained a daily itinerary, camp directory, past Trojans attending camp, playbook, and competition and rules, and a section for notes. After receiving the playbook, we were instructed to file down to the lower area of Heritage Hall to the Men's Volleyball team locker- room. In the locker-room, we found a locker with our name printed on tape and our "practice uniform" in the locker. The uniform consisted of a gray t-shirt and black shorts. We also discovered a Nike football suited for autographs. Quickly changing, I began noticing the other campers. There were some older gentlemen, white hair and all. A few young kids who looked very capable of still playing. But mostly the camp was made up of middle-aged men like myself. We even had a lone female camper, Sheri, whom I found out by Saturday was tough as nails.
I returned to the Varsity Club to await further instruction and perhaps sample a little of the snack food that had been laid out foe us. To my surprise, Norm Chow and Ronnie Lott had joined us. I made my way over to Coach Chow. I was surprised by what a big man Coach was. He was very approachable, and asked if I had everything I needed. I was a little more intimidated by Ronnie Lott. He looks fantastic, like he could still suit up and knock someone into next week. Mark Jackson, SC Director of Football operations addressed us next and told us to walk across the hall into the players' auditorium. Upon entering the auditorium, you are immediately captivated by the huge murals that are on either side of you. On the left side of the room is a panoramic shot of the Coliseum and Los Angeles on game day. The right side had huge photos of Lott, Junior Seau, Keyshawn, and Tony Boselli.
As we were filling the room the energy level exploded as the SC Coaches began yelling, "Get to the front, Get your shoes on and tied, LET"S GO! No slacking, heads up". Little did I realize that this intensity and energy would permeate every second of our camp experience. I began to get the notion this was not going to be a camp for the faint of heart.
Jackson spoke again. He said his job at SC was to let the players play and the coaches coach. If we needed anything let him know. He said the camp was designed for us to experience what it was like to be an incoming player at USC. Jackson then introduced the former Trojan Great in attendance. Lott, of course, Big Rod Martin, Sam "Bam" Cunningham, John Vella, Marlin McKeever, Ron Mix, Bob Jensen, Bill Cunerty, John Jackson and Rod Sherman. Each player gave a small introduction and kidded about being a member of The Greatest team in school history. We would later be joined by other greats. Coach Carroll was next. He lit up the room as only he can and explained the Trojan Philosophy. "IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BALL". This concept is the verbal idea of turnover ratio, a stat that Carroll is proud of and mentioned that in the last 3 years SC has led the nation in this stat. If you have the ball keep it, if you don't GET IT.
Program rules followed:
1. Protect your teammates.
2. No excuses, no complaining, no bitching.
3. Be early and be organized.
Coach Carroll on what is Trojan football:
1. It's great effort.
2. It's great enthusiasm.
3. It's playing smart ball.
Then Coach Carroll outlined the theme of his program:
2. Relentless Attitude
3. Training to become a great competitor in football and life.
Carroll is without doubt a great motivator and it's obvious from listening to him for 10 minutes why the program has turned around.
He stressed competition at every turn. No one is excused from competing daily at his or her craft, on the field or off. Coach then introduced on of the greatest Trojans of them all, Ronnie Lott. Lott brought with him his haul of Championship rings. 1 National championship, 2 Rose Bowls, 1 College Football Hall of Fame, 4 Super Bowls Rings, and a Pro Football hall of Fame Ring. Ridiculous. He told us he never wears any of the rings and hardly ever even looks at them. To him they represent past glory and he works for respect on a daily basis. Ronnie Lott reeks of class and his attitude illustrated why he is one of the all time greatest football players EVER. We then saw the "Dream On" video, which begins with fireworks form the 2004 Rose Bowl and chronicles Trojan History from 1888 to 2004. It was Awe-Inspiring.
If we as a group weren't ready to break through walls yet, on comes Coach O himself, the great Ed Orgeron. Coach O comes sprinting into the room waving his shirt over his head screaming. Suddenly he stops dead in his tracks and says in his deep, southern, baritone voice, "When we start everyone has to take off their shirt and get up. WE GONNA START AGAIN". He leaves and comes sprinting back in this time to a chorus of bare-chested screaming lunatics. Coach O then breaks it right down, "Recruiting over, no more steak dinners, everything has a price. We don't care if you were an All-American in high school, YOU COMPETE NOW"! He then points to the mural of the Coliseum, "See that! That is our house and this is our town! We don't lose in that house and we don't lose to those people across the street (ucla)"!
You could almost feel the adrenaline rush in the room. The hair on the back of my neck was straight up as we listened to the inspirational leader of Troy. It was a wonderful introduction and it set the tone for the rest of camp.
The campers then prepared for our combine. We were video taped from the front and back. We then went outside for our height and weight. I was near the front and after I was done, I asked Ronnie Lott if he was going to be around all weekend.
He said "No, just today". I explained to him that my nephew had sent a Raiders jersey for him to autograph. He asked where it was and I said down in the locker-room. Lott said he would be glad to autograph it and then followed me down into the locker area as I got the shirt. I was impressed because personalities of that stature don't have to do stuff like that. He was nice as could be and explained that his wife would kill him if he stayed all weekend at camp. Perhaps we have finally found someone who could intimidate Mr. Lott.
After our measurement, we took the short walk to Howard Jones Field and Goux Gate. Then, we all "Tapped In", touching the entrance sign and saying "I'm In" to reaffirm our commitment to the SC standard that is expected while we were on the field.
A warm-up session led by strength and conditioning Coach Carlisle prepped us for our physical testing. Such is the attention to detail that each movement, every stretch is carefully choreographed. Perfection demanded and expected.
Vertical Jump was first, followed by a 40-yard dash. I believe the coaches said they would time with sundials and calendars and that seemed about right. Third was an agility drill involving shuffling through a maze of dummies, (bags not campers). Finally we had a tap and go drill, which involved a Quarterback throwing passes to receivers.
The purpose of these tests were to allow the "owners", the former Trojan greats, to select a team to compete in "Trojan Ball".
Trojan Ball is a hybrid form of touch football. The ball can be thrown forward or back as many times as possible until it is incomplete or the person in possession gets touched with one hand, or it is intercepted. Teams have 4 downs to score. Punts and kickoff are allowed but the ball must be thrown not kicked to the opposing team. The USC coaches acted as officials and centers.
After our testing we were randomly selected for a Trojan ball exhibition. Based on my first Trojan ball experience, the phrases ‘Chinese fire drill' and "Chicken with its head cut off" spring readily to mind.
The day ended with a shower and dinner at the Galen Hall training table.
A theme that was beginning to emerge was the accessibility of the past players. We ate dinner with Ron Mix and Marlin McKeever sat behind us as Sam "Bam" was off to the side. Wonderful stuff.
The bus ride to the LA Marriott only took 10 minutes or so. We had been instructed by Mark Jackson that the draft was that night and to meet for the results at 9:00 pm. To see what team we had been drafted by.
The team names all represented facets of the SC heritage. Teams were:
And my team The Wild Bunch.
We meant briefly with our owner Bob Jensen. Bob had been the captain of the 1969 Pacific 8 and Rose Bowl Champion SC team. Bob was, as I was to find out the next two days, a classy man with some great stories to share with us.
So ended our first day of Flashback camp.
Day Two - Friday June 11, 2004
We had a 7:30am wake-up call. I went down to breakfast and sat with my new Wild Bunch teammates and owner Bob Jensen. Our team was comprised of Danny, who was a fantastic player. I would say Danny was around thirty and very fit. He was quick and tough and a great competitor. Also included was Rich. Rich was also talented and tough. He took some brutal hits in Trojan Ball some even bordered on cheap shots. He would always jump up and get on with it. Alan, Tom, and our token female Sheri rounded out my team.
The previous night Bob had explained to us how the team competition would be scored. Along with the results of Trojan Ball, the teams would take a group test over USC Football history. The final test would be running and explaining famous plays from Trojan lore. On Thursday night, Bill Cunerty had gone over the play package with us using a neat little computer simulator. The play list was as follows:
1. Roll Right -Split end coffin corner. (Doyle Nave to Al Kruger in the 1939 Rose Bowl)
2 84 Z-Delay (Fertig to Sherman 1964 Notre Dame game)
3. 23 Blast (OJ's 64 yard scamper to beat ucla in 1967)
4. 28 Pitch-Student Body Right (Anthony Davis against ND)
5. 64 X-Corner (Pat Haden to J.K. McKay in the 1975 Rose Bowl)
6. 738 Z-Shake (Todd Marinovich to Johnny Morton 1990 ucla game)
7. Trips Right Pitch Reverse QB Throwback-(Williams to Leinart in the 2004 Rose Bowl)
8. 33 yard field goal to beat ND in 1931
We decide to assign a play to each member of our team. The idea was to describe the play and then run it imitating six of the 11 positions on the field. I was given 23 Blast, the Toby Page audible that sent OJ Simpson on his famous 64 yard run to beat ucla and win the Conference and National Championship. Luckily, this is one of my favorite SC plays ever and it only took me about 5 seconds to memorize the description.
Bob was holding court telling us about John McKay. He said Saint John was very quite and businesslike. He always watched practice from a tower or golf cart. Never really interacting with the players till game time. He also said that Ed Orgeron was indeed the reincarnation of Marv Goux.
After breakfast we boarded our bus and traveled to Heritage Hall to get changed. We were assigned either a defensive or offensive meeting for preparation of our 7 vs. 7 drill later that morning.
The Wild Bunch were appropriately enough, assigned to defense. We would switch to offense in the afternoon.
Before the meeting we heard from Ron Mix. Mix, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is now a attorney. I found him to be a very articulate and impressive human being. The story he told that sticks out in my mind was the tale of the 1959 season. As a senior, he and Willy Wood were selected captains by their teammates. Not unusual except for the fact that Mix is Jewish and Wood is African-American. He accentuated that such is the power of sport that these two men could receive such an honor, 6 years before the civil-rights movement really began to pick up speed. Mix, as did all the former greats, displayed a humbleness and much gratitude about his time as a Trojan.
We broke to the defensive meeting room in the basement of Heritage Hall. Coach Carroll ,Coach O, Linebacker Coach Rocky Seto, and Secondary Coach Greg Burns were in the room with us.
Carroll explained the base defense-Under Zone X. We would be manning 7 defensive positions for the morning drill. Three linebackers and 4 secondary positions. I was the Mike or middle linebacker. I would be responsible for calling the defense , a task I would manage to screw up several times in the next day much to Coach Ken Norton, Jr.'s dismay. I also would have to cover a hook/curl passing lane about 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage.
After Coach Carroll finished Rocky Seto took over the meeting. He is a young man, 27 years old. He is also a perfect fit to Carroll's staff. Coach Seto is intense bordering on hyperactive he goes 100 miles an hours on everything. He is a fantastic motivator (compulsory to Carroll's staff) and very knowledgeable.
Seto showed us game footage of the defense against certain formations we would be seeing in the 7 vs. 7 drill.
Out we went. Sore legs and bodies were abundant but after "Tapping in" we went to our mirroring walk through with Ken Norton. Coach Norton still looks like he could suit up and win another Super Bowl.
He ran our defense and I quickly jumped in at Mike Linebacker. We had been instructed to call the defense based on the side the tight end was on either "solid right" or "solid left" then practice our defensive reads. At one point, Coach Carroll was the opposing QB with Sam Cunningham and Charles White (who had joined us for the morning practice) in the backfield! At that point I wished I had worn my brown shorts!!!
After our 15 minute walk through, we were sent to Coach Carlisle for warm-up. He put us through a routine called Dynamic Stretching, a series of form running and and muscle stretches. I was sore and the warm-up worked wonders. After the 10 minute black I was ready to go.
After stretching, we were assigned to one of four defensive stations. Tackling with Coach Norton, Passing rushing with Coach O, defensive drop and interception with Coach Seto, and secondary drop with Coach Burns. Each station was about 10 minutes long and consisted of a brief explanation and as many reps as possible. Bob Jensen and Charles White, our "owner" went along with us and what great sports they were.
After the drills it was water time. I was immediately impressed with the spirit of the campers. Everyone seemed truly interested in pumping up their fellow campers. High fives and encouraging statements were all around the water station. The camaraderie and intensity was contagious as we prepared for 7 vs. 7. The defense changed into white practice jerseys, the offense had cardinal. I got #28, Will Poole's number.
I was the first Mike Linebacker in the huddle and I barked out "under cover X'………..Norton started screaming "NO! It's under zone x!!!! Come on!! GET IT RIGHT!!!" For some reason I always wanted to call the defense incorrectly, football dyslexia I suppose.
Each group got to run 5 plays before we changed defensive personnel. The offense, consisting of a QB, 2 running backs, and 3 receivers, got diagrams of the plays from Norm Chow and tried to pick up yardage against our D. The legendary SC competitive fires were now in full flame. Coaches on both side of the ball hollering, encouraging, screaming like madmen. When you performed well the coaches go right up in your face to pump you up even more. Coach Seto was great at this, by the end of camp I would have run through a brick wall for the man. The offense scored on us on the fourth play and Coach Burns let us know about it. We got a real telling off in the huddle before the next play. You can tell when something is real and fake and I can assure you, this was real thing. USC plays everything for keeps. After our 5 plays we switched. This activity went on for 20 minutes or so.
The team competition got under way next. The basis of the team scoring would come from Trojan Ball. We were to get points for a win and also how many points we scored during the 20 minute game. (two 10 minute halves).
Game one and the Wild Bunch started with a win. I played QB but Danny and Rich were the real stars. Danny, who was from Texas and now working in Southern California, had speed to burn and could easily escape and make time and space for the rest of us to play. Rich was from Orange County and had a burning desire to excel. He was throwing his body around like a lunatic. I …………….was 48. Still I managed to intercept a two point conversion and return it for points. Jensen and White were right along with us encouraging and giving us tips at half time. I thought we played well.
Game Two, we didn't play so well. We lost by eight points. Afterward we decided to employ a different strategy for the afternoon games. Ultimately, the new formation would prove very successful.
Finally, at the end of a long but enjoyable morning we were left to practice our "famous Trojan Glory plays". I was again chosen to play QB and each team member was assigned a position for each play.
The idea was to get it as close as possible to the real thing. Description and all.
Off to lunch. Actually I didn't feel to bad with the exception of the bottom of my feet. Those puppies were killing me. It's funny how your feet get after not wearing cleats for 25 years. Oh, well I thought, I seemed to be holding up as well as anyone. I know one thing, there was enough ice given out between practices to sink the Titanic.
After lunch we reported to the meeting room for our afternoon session. The afternoon guest speaker was my owner Bob Jensen #51. By this time I had developed the utmost respect for Bob. He was humble, genuine, caring, demanding, and easy to talk to. It was easy to see why he was elected captain by his teammates in 1969.
Bob told us how during spring ball his junior year he was competing for a job as starting linebacker with 14 other players. He said that rarely did Coach McKay have the squad practice in shorts. Mostly it was in full pads and full contact. Certainly this was the rule during spring ball. He also mentioned that in those days the squad never got water during practice. Obviously long before the concept of sports nutrition.
Jensen told us that on this particular day, a new tailback named OJ Simpson was practicing against his group. The session was being filmed and the play called for the tailback to circle out of the backfield and catch a flair pass. Jensen was assigned to shadow OJ and when the pass arrived, it was Simpson and Jensen, one on one in the flat. Bob said, "OJ must have tripped or something because I brought him down for a loss and I remember thinking, I just made the team".
I had the honor of sitting next to Bob on the way to Papadakis Taverna and I asked him if he could describe a best memory. He told me being elected captain and leading the team out before the 1970 Rose Bowl against Michigan. I can't say enough about Bob Jensen.
After Bob finished we had our afternoon group meeting. This time my group had Professor Chow as the instructor. Coach Chow explained the calling and organization of SC's offensive scheme. He explained what were certain reads the QB looked for and what decisions the play calling and audible are based on. He explained that the Quarterback had to call the play, read the defensive set-up and be under center in under 7-8 seconds. He stressed how difficult this was and how complicated. Then he said something that I thought was very profound. "I get upset when these church going coaches (fans on Sunday Morning) criticize an 18-19 year old kid for the decisions they made. They can criticize the coaches all they want but leave the kids out of it. I thought that comment was great.
Off to "Tap In" again and warm-up. My legs had really tightened up at lunch but thanks to dynamic stretching, I felt OK Coach Carlisle was done with us.
Then came the offensive sessions that parallel the defensive drills we had gone through in the morning.
My group had offensive line play with Coach Tim Davis. Davis is probably the most physically imposing coach at about 6'7" tall. He is a huge man with a deep intimidating style and voice. I managed to get screamed out for holding the blocking dummy wrong.
"IS THAT HOW I TOLD YOU TO HOLD IT? DID YOU SEE ME HOLDING IT LIKE THAT? HOW DID I HOLD IT? PAY ATTENTION!!!!!! All at about 100 decibels. I somehow managed to get through the drill without wetting myself.
We then went to Coach McNair the running back coach who showed us how to square up to the hole and run north and south when running with the ball. Charles White demonstrated and I suppose he offered some credibility to the drill! Charles, or Charlie as he told us to call him, was a great presence at camp. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Cleveland in 1980 right after he had been drafted by the Browns. He was as gracious and down to earth then as he was at camp. A tremendous representative of the program and a deserving man in the Parthenon of SC Football.
We then had pass catching with Coaches Brennan Carroll and Lane Kiffin. Two young kids but again great motivators and teachers. The Wild Bunch successfully completed 12 consecutive catches, a camp record. An omen of things to come.
Finally we went to QB school with Carl Smith. Coach Smith is a new member of the staff but like all the rest was a brilliant coach. We worked on a three step drop throwing to our right, then our left.
After our water break it was back to the 7vs. 7 afternoon edition. This time I was on offense and sporting number 49. I was the Y receiver, the tight end. I was glad to finally get into a group with my best pal from camp Steve DeSantis, a CEO of a computer software company in Irvine. Steve was in front of me alphabetically and so I followed him around in the combine. Our lockers were also next to one another's, not only in Heritage Hall but in the Coliseum as well. Steve was a great guy but had a rough camp. His Trojan Ball team failed to win a game, plus he separated a shoulder diving after a ball. He never seemed to mind though, beaming like a 6 year old on Christmas morning, just like all the rest of us.
I caught a nice 15 yard out from Steve during 7 vs. 7. A super little pass that hit me right in the hands on my break. I also got told off by Pete Carroll when I didn't run a deep route inside of the safety. I must assume Alex Holmes will do it slightly better in the fall.
We had come to the conclusion that a short pass to Danny would open up lanes to continue passing down field. Defensively, we broke the field into 6 zones. 3 front 1/3eds and three deep 1/3eds.
I had the back left third (I figured this was better than the back left out). We played well and blew out poor Steve's team 28-6. Then we pulled the upset of the tournament by beating a previously unbeaten team on a late two point conversion. The Wild Bunch was now 3-1. Special kudos must go to Sheri, the lone gal in camp. She intercepted a pass and took it to the house for a huge 6 points.
After the afternoon contests we put the finishing touches on our "Glory Day" plays. We were actually the last team off the field. Another omen that the Wild Bunch was a team marked for big things.
We showered, got dressed in our spiffy clothes and boarded the bus for San Pedro and the legendary Papadakis Taverna. The campers were definitely looking for a night out as we cleaned up pretty good for our big night out.
Cold beer greeted us as we got on the bus. Carb- loading for the big game the following day. After all Coach Carroll had insisted.
We enjoyed a nice drive down the freeway and arrive to be greeted by John Papadakis. The restaurant isn't huge and we had two large central sections reserved for our pleasure. A 30 minute social preceded dinner and lots of campers used this time for autographs. I had forgotten my ball and mini-helmet on the bus so I had to race back out to get them. When I returned we had been joined by Anthony Davis. It took about 2 seconds before Anthony was surrounded by well wishers and autograph hound. Like the others he was patient to a fault as he signed one ball after the other. I managed to get Charles White to sign my Mini-Helmet, it was a cinch after I bought him a Greek beer.
A wonderful salad started the dinner and while we were eating John brought Charles White up front and made them dance Zorba the Greek. After the dance, (and Charles thought running on Notre Dame was tough) they toasted, drank, and smashed the glasses to the floor. Them John kissed Charles on the mouth, you should have seen #12's face.
The main course was a mouth watering steak followed by a piece of Baklava. During the meal, we were entertained by John and a co-worker, two beautiful belly dancers, and sang "Just a Gigolo" as a group with John and a tap dancer leading the way. I couldn't even begin to count the belly laughs during the evening. An absolutely wonderful memory and, as was mentioned many times, a bonding of the Trojan family.
We returned to the hotel tired but feeling great. Free time. I decided to go see Bill Cunerty discuss some football with his computer graphic. He was a friendly man, the former coach at Saddleback College he said he had to pull back because of colon cancer, which thankfully was in remission. We discussed many things in this football bull session. Bill told us how he had worked with Phillip Rivers and how he was going to surprise people in San Diego. He also described Roy Williams, another player he has worked with as a freak.
During the talk we were joined by Anthony Davis again who graciously signed some 8 x 10 glossies of the two Sports Illustrated covers he had appeared on.
I was tired and wanted to get some rest.
Tomorrow was the BIG DAY, flashback game day in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Day Three - Saturday June12,2004
Game Day-LA Coliseum
My 7:30 wake up call found me already awake and excited. Today was the culmination of our two days of camp. A simulated walk through of USC's pre-game routine, dressing in SC's locker-room and playing on the scared Coliseum turf.
I stopped to get Steve for breakfast and as we entered the breakfast suite, we found bonus gifts of USC camp shirts emblazoned with "It's all about the ball" on the front. Also we were able to score some of the brand new schedule posters with the corrected date of the BYU game. I do so love to get pampered.
Rod Sherman addressed the camp by commenting that the Coliseum is one of the great venues in sport and every time he goes into the grand lady he thinks of 1964 and Notre Dame. He said anyone who was in attendance at that game has never and will never witness anything like it again.
With that introduction Anthony Davis came on and related some great stories. He told of his debut as a Trojan. He was third string tailback and the team was playing on a cold wind sweep turf at Washington in 1972.
Anthony was sitting on the end of the bench freezing when one back, then the second went down to injury. At this time the score was tied 0-0 when the coach told Davis to go in and play. Anthony went in and standing freezing and tight, Mike Rae called student body left. Davis said he was only concerned with not fumbling or pulling something but when the ball was snapped he turned the corner and trotted 50 odd yards for a touchdown. The next series, Davis was again cold and miserable and again called on to run through the Huskies line and again TD. Anthony recalled his unbelievable 6 touchdown performance against the Irish. (I must say, in my 40 years as a Trojan fan, this was the most awe inspiring performance I can remember. ) Anthony told us about the next season about going to Notre Dame as a 20 year old and seeing a dummy of himself hanging in effigy outside a dorm room complete with number 28 on it. The Notre Dame students had also printed fliers with the phrase "Oh god in heaven, don't let Davis score seven" on them. He said he then knew the importance of the SC-ND rivalry. Anthony said SC played well with the exception of Eric Pennick's run that was the difference maker. (I can recall feeling sick to my stomach watching that play).
So the scene was now set for 1974 back in LA. Davis said McKay didn't go crazy in the build-up to the game. He had a sound game-plan and the Trojans felt comfortable going in to the contest. Davis said the first half ND was doing everything right and SC was struggling with everything, everywhere he ran the Irish were there in numbers. Right before the first half ended, McKay called Haden and AD over and told Davis to break off a route and go to the flat. Haden was instructed to look into the end-zone and if it wasn't there, flair it out to AD. As we all know that decision was correct and the half finished 6-24.
AD said McKay stressed the importance of someone making a big play to start the second half. He turned to Davis and Said "Like you Anthony, let's take the kickoff back all the way". AD said he hadn't seen a kickoff in two years and wondered what was up with that statement. On his way out to the field Anthony overheard some Irish players saying "OK let's kick it to Davis and kick his A$$". Davis stopped and thought, and I quote "You gonna kick my Mother f&*king a&&"? The rest as they say is history. Wonderful story.
After AD was done Coach Carroll addressed the team. He said the game with Notre Dame (our theme was playing the Irish) was for National Ranking, before a huge TV audience, that ND had really tuned it around this year after struggling last year. But we don't worry about them or any opponent. We are only concerned with SC. He also stressed "FINISHING" the game. Winning the fourth quarter.
The team broke into our offense and defensive meetings. I went to Defense. Coaches Carroll, O, and Seto were in the meeting and we did a clap drill. We went into units and one group at a time identified formations and as Seto called signals, clapped on command. It is a drill to mentally get a player to react as quickly as possible.
Then we were commanded to board the bus to the Coliseum. Coach O was on stage as he shouted engorgement. "NO Talking", "This is our day", "Show for the TV", on and on. Boy, can this man get you psyched!
On the bus and it was dead silent. Coach O stood right next to where Steve and I were sat. He kept it going but now at a even more feverish pace. "You gonna play in our house! It's an honor to play in that Big Bastard, WE DON"T LOSE IN THAT HOUSE"! He gave me chills all the way to the Coliseum.
We unloaded at the Peristyle end and began the Trojan Walk into the field. At the top of the Entrance the SC Band began playing "Conquest". It was fantastic to experience and of course know everyone was really getting into it even more than at practice. .Slowly steadily we walked down the steps and onto the field. The team met at the 50 yard line and Coach Seto lead us in a prayer.
Finally we were off to the locker room to get our game uniforms on. Walking up the tunnel you see the Rose Bowl graphic and National Championships listed on the left. On the Right is a huge WE ARE SC.
The locker room area is adored with history and photos of Championship teams and great players from the past. A team on each pillar, Bob Jensen took me aside and showed me his year and pointed out Mike Battle who was my favorite player as a little kid.
We searched for our lockers which had a personalized locker room plate over it. Mine was awesome SC-Scott Downer-17 (Battle's old number). Inside the locker we found a great surprise. Our jersey was an authentic 2004 Rose Bowl jersey complete with embroidered Rose Bowl logo. Each camper was able to select the number they wanted. I of course selected my beloved #17. A great touch and a nice surprise.
Dressed in jerseys and our black camp shorts. Coach O was in the locker room continuing to get us ready to play ND. "Hey! They're here now. With there green jerseys and the gold helmets. They even brought that leprechaun. WE LOCKED THE DOOR BEHIND THEM!! What you gonna do with them now?" Pure Magic.
Coach Carroll bust in then to address his "Troops". We were huddled around him and to be honest, I was so caught up in the moment, I had no idea what he said.
Out we went, this time, we "Tapped In" before we left the locker room on the sign over the door. The team walked down the tunnel chanting "War Time" a rhythmic chant taught to us by Coach Davis. After we had walked shoulder to shoulder down the tunnel we huddled one last time as a final clap drill led by Davis sent us sprinting out onto the field. The Band was playing "Conquest" again as we went through our stretching routine. After the stretching Coach Carroll led us to the band as we all sung "Fight On" together.
We went into a 7 vs. 7 drill . This time, the offense would move the ball and try to score. The defense would score if they forced a turn over.
I was assigned #13 in Cardinal for the exercise and was the first Mike out. I managed to call the defense correctly and we broke. On the snap, I dropped into my zone and by reading the QB's eyes was able to see he was going to throw short. I got a good break on the ball and managed to deflect it away. The players and coaches went nuts. Coach Seto grabbed me and was going berserk. Coach Norton was pumped as well and as we got into the huddle he called "OK UNDER COVER Z". I hesitated and so did he, we kind of started at each other and he corrected himself, "Under Zone X". As we broke we began giggling and I said, "You're gonna screw that up during the season and think of me". He laughed and said, "Hell I know that". A fun memory of my camp experience.
We stopped them a second time but on the third play their receiver made a great catch and they got the first down.
My group was now out and the next bunch went on. Standing on the sideline we cheered the defensive group on but I was biting at the bit to get in. The offensive group got a touchdown and we settled into the rest of the exercise. Every three plays a new group got to run the defense. Finally my boy Danny picked off a pass and took it back. The drill was all square when Coach Carroll announced "OK sudden death. Ball on the 35".
As luck would have it, my group would have the 2nd,3rd, and 4th downs of the sudden death. If we could hold, we would win.
The Dense held on first down, we trotted on ready to go. The first next play Coach Chow called was draw play which was a great call, especially considering we were told there would no running plays. The tailback got it down to about the 9.
A short little dump off pass into the left flat got it to the 3.
Fourth and Goal.
One more play and victory was ours.
Unfortunately, Coach Chow showed his metal and flooded the right side with two receivers.
We got outnumbered and the offense scored to win the 7 vs. 7.
We broke next for the final game of Trojan Ball. The Wild Bunch was in third place but still close as we played the fourth place team.
Our team kicked off and I got toasted on the flank on the kickoff, as they got down close. Two plays later, they scored but we stopped the two point conversion.
We struggled in the first half but managed to score right before half time. We also failed on the conversion . All even at half time.
The Wild Bunch then responded with our best half of camp. Everyone contributed. Danny and I combined for an option like TD. I threw a TD to Alan who made a sensational catch followed by Sheri's two point conversion. Rich was tremendous on defense and Tom made a huge interception to keep us rolling. We ended up winning by something like 38-6. When the final whistle blew there were smiles all around, as a Wild Bunch photo op began for friends and family.
The game between the first and second place teams had begun at half time of our Trojan Ball game. I wasn't paying to much attention talking and enjoying my family and meeting the Wild Bunch's spouses and friends. Apparently, the second place team won and that coupled with our massive point output moved us into first place in the team standings.
Now, if we could not screw up the running of the "Glory Plays" we would be Camp Champs.
Play one was selected for us. It would 738 Z-Shake, the Marinovich to Morton TD from 1990.
The competition would be judged on sharpness, execution, and realism.
We got in the huddle and were holding hands as I called the play. We broke with authority and ran the play. I under threw the pass but luckily Danny was athletic enough to adjust and make the grab.
I then threw myself to the ground to imitate Marinovich being flattened when he threw the pass to beat the Bruins.
OK we hadn't blown it.
The next and final round, we had to perform a running play and 23 Blast was selected. 23 Blast was probably the easiest play to run and I had to give the scenario of the play. No problem as I rattled it off.
Into huddle and breaking out crisp and clear. The play was run to perfection just like in 1967. And the Wild Bunch are Camp Champs!!!!!
Coach Carroll brought us in for a final huddle. He told us the Trojan family stretched far and wide. That we were as much a part of it now as anyone who had come before. A great closing that echoed the first class way in which the man runs his program.
That was the way it ended. The Wild Bunch stayed for some group shots. Final goodbyes were said as we worked our way back to the locker room to shower and change for the barbecue at the Peristyle end of the Coliseum. I honestly felt a tremendous bond with the other campers. We had come together and gone through the experience of the camp because of our love of SC Football. The camp was better than I could have ever imagined. Great memories, new friends, and a fantastic view into Trojan Football.