Coach Carroll always stresses to us that it's not about winning titles, it's about winning each game. If you do that, the titles will come with it so we just concentrate on winning each game. Of course, everyone knows what is possible with three titles but you've got to win a series of games before you can start talking.
How important is it for players to understand the tradition of playing at USC?
I think it's very important for players coming in here to understand the Trojan tradition and the Trojan heritage. A lot of players from across the country may not understand what USC and the Trojan Family are all about and you can't understand the true essence of it until you put on the Cardinal and Gold. When I first got here my family kept telling me how important it was, how many great players had played here and practiced on the same field I was practicing on. You've got to understand that and at the same time respect that you're lucky enough to be able to play for such a great school.
The offensive line has re-established themselves as one of the top units in the country, would you agree?
When I first came here to USC it was right after the loss to Utah. They had just brought in Coach Davis and one of the first things he told me was that in the past few years before I got there the USC offensive lineman weren't getting recognized anymore. We kind of took that as a challenge with him telling me and the rest of the o-linemen that, it was like "man, we got to bring that back. SC football is all about the guys in the trenches". Right now we're one of the top o-lines in the country and bringing that respect back is what it's all about. We want to bring back that same fear that people had in the past when they played against guys like Anthony Munoz. I think that was lost for a couple years but now it's back and we just got to keep it going. It's not just about the glamour guys, the guys in the trenches are pretty good too.
Do you miss playing on the d-line?
Yeah, I'm not gonna lie and say I don't. I guess it's a good thing that I'm playing offensive line because it's not normal for an offensive lineman to be so, I guess, crazy. That's what people say. Not many offensive linemen have my spirit. That's a positive thing to bring that to an o-line, to bring that intensity. Coach Carroll always says that everybody has their part that they bring to the team to make it better and I think I help my unit by being a free spirit guy. It's that mentality where you go out there and not only tell the other guys you're going to kick their butt, you do it as well. And then after we do it, we're gonna tell you that we did it (laughing).
Is that what you meant by "bringing the sugar"? (note – when Fred was moved to the o-line he made the comment "The o-line right now is like your momma's cooking, it tastes good but it needs a little sugar, I'm bringing the sugar")
Yeah, I kind of got in trouble for saying that when I first got here. Like I said, I don't really hold anything back and when I said that, I meant it. I'm not gonna be part of a line that isn't pumped and when I got here that was one of the things we needed to do was get things riled up. Shoot, look where we're at now. Everybody brings something to the table and if I'm gonna be out there I'm gonna make sure I'm having a good time because this is what I love to do.
How do the calls work for the offensive linemen during a game?
What we're taught as offensive linemen is that our scheme works inside-out. That means everything starts with the center, all the calls start with him and then to the guards and the tackles. The center is basically the quarterback of the o-line. Any front that we see, the center recognizes it and tells the rest of the line what he wants to do and off of that we make our calls. It's like a domino effect and that's why it's so important for the center to make that correct call because we're all working off him.
Take us back to the Orange Bowl, when did you know that game was going to be a Trojan victory?
Truthfully, we knew that before the game even started. You look at our d-line last year, both tackles were All-Americans, both ends are All-Pac 10 guys this year. When we were in that last week of practice before the game, we knew. Our d-lineman had given us their best shot in bowl practices and we knew our d-linemen were better than their d-linemen. There were days in practice where they got the best of us but there were also days where we got the best of them. When it came to the game, we knew after that first drive even though we punted the ball we came to the sidelines and said "man, these guys don't know what's gonna hit them". It didn't surprise us and it didn't surprise Coach Carroll, he said we were gonna go out there and kick their butt. When you talk to the guys on this team, we weren't surprised to see that happen. What really got our o-line pumped up was how much their o-line was getting press as the top o-line in the country and we took that personally. Every expert on TV was like "Oklahoma, they got the better o-line". Even though we were a young o-line we didn't feel like we got enough respect for being there. We just took the mindset that we were gonna prove that we belonged this year, next year, the year after that and so on. And that's exactly what happened.
Why are the offensive linemen such a unique fraternity on a football team?
I think it's because the offensive line is the only position where you need to work as one. If you don't, it doesn't matter who you have at quarterback or who you have at running back, it's not gonna work. We've grown up together as young linemen and we understand that. We're each others biggest critics. If one o-linemen does something off on his own he's gonna get one of the other guys grabbing him by the neck and bringing him back to the huddle to get straight. We're able to do that and talk like that to each other because we all know we're here for one simple reason, to win. That's it. That's all we care about.
What is your favorite play to run?
Power. As Coach Davis use to say "Power is God's Play". Power is a downhill play, it's nothing fancy and it's the one play where it's all about attitude and who wants it more. We know when power gets called that we're not going to be denied. If you want a play that symbolizes the o-line it's power because that's when we get to put guys on the ground.
Talk about the Samoan influence at USC.
Polynesians and football, they go together like bread and butter. If there's a reason I act a certain way or talk a certain way, it's because of my Samoan culture. We're nice and respectful people off the field, very religious too. If you're not in church grandma or mom is gonna grab you by the ear and snatch you up. When we get on the football field though, there's just a switch that goes on with every Samoan athlete. We enjoy coming out here and kicking people's butt and not getting arrested for doing it. It's not like this is anything new, we've seen it with guys before us like Junior Seau and Troy Polamalu. It's something inside of us that says when you play football it's like a battle. We really take it to that level. Truthfully, for a lot of Samoan players this is all we've got. We weren't born into riches or anything like that. We just want to take advantage of the opportunities that football gives us. The Hawaii game was great because they've got over 50 Polynesian players on that team. It's a respect thing when you're going up against so many of your own kind in a game like that, it's almost like you want to show who is the real Polynesians, you take it to heart like that.
Talk about how your role has changed as you've become a veteran player.
My role has changed a lot as I've become a veteran. It's noticeable that people are watching us and so you have to pay attention to that. You can't walk through any drills, you need to be the one correcting other guys. If you're going to be correcting anybody else you better be doing it right when it's your turn. My first year here I had to learn a lot, you can ask Coach Carlisle. It took a lot of adjusting coming from a City school and being a knucklehead, I mean, I've got a mouth on me. I can't lie about that. Now the coaches are leaning on me to do things right so I've got to maintain that credibility as a leader.
Who is one younger player on the team that people need to watch out for?
Rey Maualuga. I'm not just saying that because he's Samoan. I've seen the way he works, he's got everything. He's going to be a great player and I've seen a lot of great players at SC like Troy Polamalu and Lofa Tatupu, he's got a chance to be a great one.