Lindsay then brought up Marco Pintaric, assistant coach for both the men's and women's water polo teams, to recognize the accomplishments of this season. The men's team finished 26-1 with a national championship while the women, as of the night of this dinner, were 23-0 and ranked #1 in the nation. Pintaric, a former All-American at USC, talked about the football program is the lifeblood of the athletic department as he turned to Ruel and said "everyone looks to you guys and sees your success." A silent auction was also held prior to the dinner to help raise funds for the water polo program.
Next came the introduction of Frostee Rucker or the man Soto called "the bane of my existence for the past four years". It is clear that Frostee and Lindsay have a good relationship with so much fun banter between the two as the talkative Rucker was a regular interview subject for Soto in recent years on both the Southern California Sports Report and the Trojan Rewind show. It was brought up that Frostee had the nickname "Frostee the Sackman" and Lindsay replied "I don't know where the came from since you didn't lead the team in sacks, you did lead them in appearances on Trojan Rewind though". Frostee acted shocked to hear that and said "I'm speechless. It's because there's no camera here right now. I'm a talkative guy. There was just a lot of times after games where it was like "I've got a lot to say about this one, you gotta talk to me". I like what you do (TV work) and it's what I want to do when I'm done playing."
Frostee said he was nervous about the upcoming draft because "I've been playing football since I was seven years old and it's a lifelong dream to be drafted to the NFL. I'm blessed to be here." Lindsay asked if there was an indications of which team might be looking to draft him and Frostee said "I don't know, I let my agent handle that" to which Lindsay mockingly replied "He did not just drop the My Agent line, did he?" The crowd was laughing at this point and Lindsay asked if Frostee was considered a "tweener" who could see time at either DE or LB. Frostee took the mic and moved in front of Lindsay "I need the mic to do what I do best so, as I was saying, I worked out at the combine at both positions. There are a couple teams who run a 3-4 where I could play LB but mostly the interest is as a DE."
Frostee said the experience of this past season was "an unbelievable time. We came up short but we played our hearts out the whole time for you guys. The USC fans are so loyal. My role this year was to try and get the young guys on the line to play the way we can, a couple guys went down for us but we still ended up going undefeated in the regular season and we Fought On."
Lindsay asked Frostee to talk about some of the players coming back next year and Frostee immediately talked about the defense "the whole linebacking corps is top notch. Sed Ellis is up to 300 pounds now after being at 285 last year, he's hungry to be an elite player. I also think our o-line is right up there with guys like Baker and Kalil." A question was asked about the possibility of using the 3-4 defense at USC and Frostee said "It wouldn't be a bad thing to do, maybe switch it up a little, but Carroll is a 4-3 guy and that's what got us this far." The final question for Frostee came when someone asked who will take his role as the emotional leader of the team "I don't know. I wasn't that way as a junior but I made up my mind to in the off-season to commit myself every day to that role. Maybe Lawrence Jackson will take it over, he's always got a lot to say and he's one of those guys where you can't argue with him. He's always throwing words in there that you haven't used since the SAT."
At that point Rucker sat down and Lindsay brought offensive line coach Pat Ruel to the stage. Ruel immediately got started by talking about how Pete Carroll "does it differently than any other coach I've been around and I've worked for a lot of guys." Ruel then listed off an impressive resume of head coaches he has served under and he said what Pete Carroll has done is "mastered how to run a program and keep things going in the right direction." To emphasize his point, Ruel said he turned down job offers this past off-season from Green Bay and Atlanta because "I can learn a lot more here."
Soto asked how Carroll recruited Ruel to USC and Pat said "I've known Pete going back to our days at Arkansas. Well, I was in negotiations with Cleveland and Pete called me and asked if I wanted to put any pressure on the Browns. He told me to just come out for a visit and the Browns would get worried and offer me more money. I land at the airport and he takes me down by the ocean, we have lunch in Manhattan Beach and I'm thinking "Hey, this wouldn't be too bad." Pete Carroll is like a beautiful woman, the closer you get the more you're in trouble. He just started hammering me, telling me the last time Cleveland was good was Jim Brown. The next thing I knew I was telling him I was coming."
Ruel was asked to comment on each member of the offensive line "Kyle Williams really did a good job this spring, he earned the opportunity to start fall camp as the starter at RT. Chilo Rachal and I had a talk last spring and he told me he didn't think I could help him get to the NFL, he told me he had gotten many reps and he wanted to quit. I told him to go ahead and quit. He looked at me and said "are you serious?" I told him there were 1,000 guys who would love to be in his place. At USC, you have talented guys ahead of you and sometimes you need to sit and learn. He's doing a great job now, he's got a lot of talent. Ryan Kalil, he's an All-American and maybe one of the top centers in the country. At left guard, Matt Spanos has come on and done a good job so far. Jeff Byers, he's a hard worker and a real good talent. We've also got Drew Radovich back so that gives me three guys there now. The great thing about competition is that it keeps everyone playing one step higher. At left tackle we've got Sam Baker and he's a two time All-American. I really believe we will have a great offensive line, I didn't stay here just because I like Pete."
Ruel was asked about his reaction to losing kids early to the NFL draft, specifically his views about Fred Matua "The #1 thing we want kids to do is get a degree because when you have that paper, when you have that degree from the University of Southern California, nobody can ever take that away from you. When people start talking about money and you're young, it's hard to turn that down. Fred was a high energy guy, he would also cut some corners sometimes and whenever he did that I would just put my arm around Chilo and say "he's next." Fred was a free spirit and we loved that. Frostee, he was a free spirit too. Those guys bring juice. I look at the situation of declaring early and say to myself that if you have a chance to be an All-American and get your picture on the wall outside our locker room, well, that's special. I wasn't a great player so I want to help these guys be what I couldn't be."
Ruel said both quarterbacks, John David Booty and Mark Sanchez, are talented players with a lot of leadership but he says he is hoping to see the headlines next fall after John David leads us to victory on a last second play "USC wins on Booty call". Ruel said Ryan Powdrell "may not be the Bus but he's a mini-bus right now."
In terms of recruiting, Ruel said the offensive line would definitely be a point of emphasis for this class "We want to get good players into our summer camp. It's not just about athleticism, we want guys who can compete and who take coaching." When asked about the fact that USC has so few offers out there right now as compared to some other schools, Ruel replied "If you want to come to USC, you will wait. If you don't want to go through the process, that's OK. We want those guys who believe they have what it takes to be Trojans."
When asked about the difference between coaching in the NFL and in college, Ruel told a story of his first meeting as a coach in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. He got to the front of the room and saw his two best players, both veterans, sitting in the back row. He asked them to move up front because he wanted them as leaders to sit in the front. They didn't move. He asked them again, they didn't move. Ruel finally went to the back of the room behind where the players were seated and asked all the players to turn their chairs around, the players in the back row were now in the front row and his problem was solved. Ruel said in college, when you tell the players in the back row to move to the front row they say "Yes, sir"
One of the more interesting stories of the night came when Ruel talked of meeting an athlete in a wheelchair who was competing in part of the annual Swim with Mike event held recently at USC. Ruel said the athlete told him one of his keys to success was "I've become comfortable with being uncomfortable." Ruel then made several analogies to the USC football team last year to show how the team was also comfortable in the position of being uncomfortable. When we were down big at halftime of ASU, there was no panic, we knew what we had to do to win the game and we went out and did it. 4th and 9 at Notre Dame, enough said. He also talked about the last plays of the Rose Bowl, they score and two plays later we're driving down the field like we know how to do only to have the clock run out. Our players weren't uncomfortable under that kind of pressure, they went out there and executed. Ruel also talked about how Carroll handled the situation in the locker room after the Rose Bowl game as an example of how the coach knows how to handle being uncomfortable. "At his most emotional moment, in the locker room after a big loss, the first thing he said was "I'd like to thank the guys on the service team…" At that moment he's thinking about guys who normally don't get any recognition. Pete Carroll is a unique guy."
Ruel said there are three basic rules for the USC football team:
1) Protect the team
2) No complaining, no whining, no excuses
3) Be early. If you're early, we know you're excited to take on the task of the day.
Silent auction to benefit Water Polo teams
Frostee signs autographs for young Trojan fans
Sean Kennally and Lindsay Soto