W "We're you a track runner as a child or a football player?"
R "I was a football player in Pop Warner when I was 10. It wasn't until I got to junior high that I was introduced to recreational running and then when I got to Poly I discovered the concept that if I wanted to be a better football player then I needed to find a sport that complemented my efforts in football and that turned out to be track. The track schedule didn't conflict with football and pretty soon I found myself competing with the best athletes in track and field and I was able to take that energy and emotion over to the football field and I had a little success with it."
W "Poly seems to use track well as a way to develop the football players."
R "Oh yeah. They take the skilled players and most explosive athletes and have them competing at the highest level so by the time you enter the game as a football player you're not shellshocked or starstruck by your opponent because you're used to seeing top notch athletes week in and week out. We understood that speed was vital in football and so for track to complement football at Poly it's just a match made in heaven."
W "Talk about how your mindset got created at Poly."
R "Poly actually catapulted my career because it prepared me as close as it possibly could to being at a college. The caliber of competition we had every day in practice was no different that lining up every day against another scholarship corner who's coming in to take my job. At Poly we had a saying that you're only as good as your last play or your last game so if you're resting on your laurels we can always bring in somebody else to replace you."
W "What is your definition of leadership?"
R "For me it's getting the players around you to play better than they ever have before. I learned this a long time ago when I was in junior high school I had a P.E. instructor who recognized the potential I had in myself but at that age I was pretty selfish and ambitious and just always wanted to win. In our classes we were integrated with some mentally challenged kids who weren't part of the mainstream school and she put some of them on my team and basically told me that if I really thought I was a winner then I would learn how to win with these kids. At first I got frustrated but then I realized that if I could motivate them and get them to believing in themselves then we'll succeed. So what I did when I got to high school was to take that same attitude, by working with any player, even those who may not be as physically gifted as others. I also knew that if I could win with these guys in junior high then I could work with any prima donna and get him to believe in our system and get him to play better than he ever has before. He also may need to learn how to play alongside somebody else who has never played with somebody of his caliber before. For me, that's leadership. It's not standing out there being vocal, it's getting into somebody's ear who I knew had the potential and the drive and telling them "We need you to step up." I've had a lot of success doing that, just being a leader behind the scenes."
W "You have a vocal and loyal supporter at practices in the presence of your mom Trilla."
R "My mom, and I know this sounds cliche, but she is the strongest person I've ever met. I love her. There's times when I'll step on the field and I'll be tired and maybe I'm wondering if it's worth it but then I see and hear the love and energy that she puts into me and it motivates me into pushing on. She doesn't care if I win or lose, just the fact of me being out there competing and doing something I really enjoy makes her happy. Over the years sports has brought us closer together because it gives us events to look forward to and she supports me the same way in the classroom as well, she's just with me the whole way through. When I started playing football she was out there throwing the ball with me, helping me learn how to tackle. I love my mom, I couldn't imagine a game without her being there."
W "What will you take from her as a parent?"
R "Her energy. She's very involved and over the years I've seen a few teammates who didn't have the same family support and as a result they strayed away and never had somebody to get them back on track. If anything I want to be vocal in my kids lives, I don't necessarily want to dictate what they do but I'm gonna support and encourage anything they get in to. I think a lot of my success is predicated to the involvement and role that my mom has played. I go home and I see many of my accomplishments on the wall and it's kind of gratifying to know that you have someone who loves you and will always support you even if others are criticizing you."
W "What stands out about your experience at USC so far?"
R "I've grown up a lot. The coaching changes, how I've adjusted to that type of adversity. Playing in the big games, the emotions, controlling my emotions. The people that I've come in contact with, via on the field or off the field. I think the whole experience has shaped me, I have no regrets about coming to SC nor do I have any regrets about the way my career has gone to this point because without the experiences I've encountered I wouldn't be the man I am today. If I take away anything it will be that I learned how to look myself in the mirror and accept what has happened that day."
W "I know you were impressed to meet Muhammad Ali as a freshman."
R "I was speechless when I saw the great Muhammad Ali come in to our locker room. A guy of his stature who's respected in his regard and who I think is one of the greatest competitors of our time, it just felt so great to be a Trojan at that point because I knew if I was anywhere else I wouldn't be able to experience that. Here we are in South Bend, Indiana, the home of Notre Dame and Ali is in our locker room, not theirs. The benefits of being a Trojan were far more greater than I could have ever imagined, to get support from the likes of Muhammad Ali, to go to places like Paramount Studios as a team before the games and seeing world premier movies before they even come out. These are things that bond with your teammates that you don't see anywhere else. Having Marcus Allen pull you aside before a game and say "Rideaux, I've watched you in high school. I want to see that same fire we saw on the track". Stuff like that is a humbling experience and it makes you appreciate not only the value of your education but the value of the sport you play and school you attend."
W "What did you learn from the coaching change of Hackett to Carroll?"
R "You have to be happy with your situation as a student and as a person because the football part can change like that. There's an expression "One year coach, 30 year mortgage". A coach can be with you one year but the next thing you know he's gone working somewhere else because he's still got a mortgage to pay."
W "Talk about the arrival of Pete Carroll."
R "I couldn't have prayed for a better situation. A head coach who not only specializes in defense but is really focused on my position. I've learned so much from him. I've learned about maturing in my position, learning how to use my strengths to my advantage and really cover up my weaknesses. There are so many times when I'm coming out and Coach Carroll will pull me aside and pick out an idea for me and it may not make sense right then so he'll just say "C'mon, let's go on the grass" and he's out there on the field working with me in combat so that I have a better idea what's expected of me. The best thing that ever happened was right before spring ball when he told me "Just play. I don't want you to think. I'll put you in the position, I'll do all the thinking for you. I just want you to be an athlete. Don't worry about anything. We can correct other things but if you don't lay out then I don't know what to work on." For me, to have that confidence in knowing I have a head coach who is in my corner, that meant a lot to me. Now I can let loose and be the Darrell Rideaux that I know."
W "Carroll has commented that you had an impressive spring."
R "I feel like I had an opportunity to showcase that I'm not done. I'm want to use that as my foundation, work hard this summer and go in to see him right before the start of fall camp and say "OK, this is where we've gone, now how do I get to that next level? How do I become that every down corner that we can depend on?" We'll sit down and have that conversation, I'll set goals with him and we'll strive to meet those goals. I'm very excited, it's been a while since I've been this excited about anything in sports. I feel like a kid in a candy field running around playing ball and that's the way it should be."
W "Tell us about your first meeting with Carroll."
R "It was at Edison Field for the Poly vs Loyola championship game, it was right before he got the job and I was just elated to be in his presence. I'm a big 49'er fan, had followed his career from there and supported him when he was in New England. To now be able to be coached by him and be mentored by him, I feel like not only do I have a coach but I found a friend. He's someone I can talk to and he's also a guru for my position who can teach me the skills necessary for me to accomplish the goals I want to accomplish."
W "What has Carroll done to build up the spirit of the program?"
R "I think Coach Carroll is a people person. Any head coach who stays out after practice to throw balls at you to work on your ball adjustment, you have to respect that. He's very charismatic and what he'll do is he'll watch you without you even knowing it and he'll take flashes of your great moments and try to recapture that moment by placing you in elements where you feel comfortable and can just relax and be a football player. If a player is playing out of position, instead of forcing him to fit the scheme he'll adjust and fit the scheme around him to work toward his strengths. Because of that we have players such as myself who would be willing to run through a brick wall for him because we believe where he's taking our program."
W "What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses right now."
R "As a corner I think my biggest attribution is also my weakness. My ability to analyze the situation, sometimes I'm my own worst critic and because of that I can beat myself up. I've learned from Coach Carroll about the importance of having a short term memory as a corner because you have to take each play as if it was a new day. When you lay your head down at night and wake up that's a whole new day with a fresh start, each play is like the start of a new beginning and it's about what you do after that. Now instead of worrying about a play that happened 3 or 4 series ago or 3 or 4 plays ago I just focus on one play at a time. I relax, I line up and I do the same thing. If I have a mistake in between the snaps we make the adjustment and keep going."
W "What are the challenges of being a two sport athlete?"
R "It's very difficult because you never have an off season and you always find yourself trying to get in shape during the season. Any athlete coming into the collegiate level today will tell you that the conditioning, the preparation for your season doesn't start in training camp, it starts in the off season so if you play two sports you're not devoting yourself to the correction of the mistakes that are going to take you over the top."
W "What are you going to miss when you're done playing football?"
R "The camaraderie. Walking through the Coliseum stadium, hearing the echoes of those who came before me. Think about that, guys like Ronnie Lott and Mark Carrier. Being wet behind the ear, I remember my first camp like it was yesterday. Getting 3 or 4 different coverages a day being thrown at me and my head was spinning. I use the analogy to the younger guys that it's like being in the middle of the 110 Freeway with cars flashing by you left and right and your head is on a swivel. It's when you are able to focus in on that one car next to you that you feel like you've arrived and that's how I feel right now. Things are starting to slow down before me and I can see them developing which either means that I'm getting very old or experience is starting to really settle in."
W "Talk about your engagement."
R "I feel the best thing that has happened to me in my career has been meeting my fiancee Calais Preimesberger (USC junior majoring in psychology). Since meeting her I feel like my social life, my academics and my athletics are now in balance with one another. I've found support where she encourages what I do on the football field, what I do in the classroom and then I have a friend to come home and talk to. If I'm stressed out on the football field, have midterms up the ying yang, I can come home and see a smiling face full of laughter and it's like she doesn't have a care in the world. She makes me appreciate things although sometimes I look at her and say "Wow, it must be nice to be so carefree". I guess that's why opposites attract. I analyze a lot and am a critical thinker and she brings me the balance that I need."
W "What are your goals off the field after graduation?"
R "I've tried to make quite a few alliances at USC. In recent years I've interned with a real estate company and a financial investment company and I'm still looking to intern this summer at Fox to help pursue a long time goal of getting into broadcasting. I've always wanted to be affiliated with athletics and what better way than to do what I enjoy doing and that's to work with students. I'm a sociology major with a psychology minor and ultimately after I establish myself, my family and my career I would like to open up a program in Long Beach where I can bring athletics and academics together. I want a program where I can train athletes not only how to use the right running form and technique but within the same facility provide a proper weight room, computer area and an SAT prep area where they can study for the test. I think it would be great to have a place for kids to go where they can enjoy themselves and gain the tools necessary to accomplish their goals."
W "Tells us about the Bob Chandler Award that you received last year"
R "The Bob Chandler Award recognizes your merits on and off the field, leadership. It's all dedicated to the beliefs of Bob Chandler himself, he was a man respected with high regard among USC alumni and his peers so it means a lot because often times we don't always get recognized for doing the little things. Too often we open the newspapers and see the miscues of athletes but you really never hear about the common Joe who's just a nice guy who smiles and tries to do things right every day. I'm not saying that I do it to be recognized but to be honored as being that common Joe off the field meant a lot more to me than any athletic award I've won in the past. It showed me that even though I may not have always felt that my career was going the way I wanted it to that there were people who still respect what you do."
W "What is going to happen this season to wrap up your USC career in the right way."
R "Getting out of the gate early and fast, having a steady and consistent year and then sometime this season there's going to be a situation where I'm going to be called on. It might be the 4th quarter, a big third or 4th down play where I'm matched up with the premier receiver and that ball is thrown deep on a fade. I turn, I look and instead of batting the ball down I jump up and intercept the ball and that's the game right there. It may not necessarily be at that kind of critical point in the game but that right there would be a victory in itself because the very first play I stepped on the football field for USC was against Oregon State and they completed a fade on me. Since then that play has been my achilles heel so I visualize myself making that big play and that play is simply doing my job. That's my individual goal. My team goal is to get myself in condition mentally, physically and emotionally to help our team get to the BCS Championship game. If that calls for me to be more vocal or more active, so be it, whatever it takes."