Q & A with Hershel Dennis

WeAreSC.com caught up with future Trojan running back Hershel Dennis as he prepares for the Shrine All Star game this Saturday at Mt. SAC.

W "In one month you are going to be playing football for the USC Trojans, how does that make you feel?"

H "Yeah, it's something I'm very excited about. I'm really looking forward to it. Right now I'm just trying to make it through the summer and then start to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me. If I'm ready to play then I'm gonna play but if I'm not where I want to be at then I'll redshirt. I might let the seniors do their thing and focus on getting ready for next season because I don't want to waste a year for 20 plays or something like that."

W "Talk about the off season workouts"

H "I started working out with SC this past month, I wanted to wait until I passed my test before I got going. Me, Darnell and Winston have been taking part in the summer workouts, doing the lifting, trying to get ready for that next level. I just basically want to get used to the system, see how they do things in their workouts because it's a whole different level. I'm just watching what they do, trying to mirror them a little bit, trying to get my body ready. I need to work on my size, right now I'm at 185 lbs and I also need to get a little quicker and more explosive to hit the hole that much faster."

W "How special is it to play in this Shrine game with Poly teammates Darnell Bing and Marcedes Lewis?"

H "It's real special to me. I wasn't actually going to play in this game but after the California vs Florida game and the championship game I was already missing high school football and missing playing with them so we all talked and decided we needed to get another game together. It gives us more memories, it's special to play with great athletes like them and we're gonna try to make more memories this weekend."

W "Talk about the trip today to the hospital?"

H "It was okay. You know it's real sad to see other children and kids who don't have the abilities you have because they don't have two arms or any legs. It reminds us of how blessed we are and we can't take it for granted. You have to be thankful for everything you've got and it let me know that when I saw those kids today."

W "Tell us about your family"

H "They're great, I love em, they're very supportive. My mom's real happy that I'm going to SC and my dad's real proud of me. My whole family is proud of me and they're especially proud that I just passed that test. They can't be more excited waiting for the season to come, they just want to keep cheering. My mom's making sure to tell me to bring that laundry home too, I can do that since I'm still in LA, bring it to the house and have her hook it up for me real quick. I have five sisters and three brothers and I'm the youngest of the group. I'm mom's baby. There was a point in time at the beginning of the recruiting process when I was going to go to Oregon and it hurt her heart. She didn't want to see her baby go. I would wake up every morning and she'd be standing over me crying. I couldn't leave her like that. She was definitely a part of me making my decision and I figured me doing this for my mom it had to turn out right."

W "How did you get the nickname Patch?"

H "My goddaddy gave me that name when I was born cause they said I had a little patch of hair on my head. That's my family name for me, if people are saying they know me then my family just knows to ask what my name is. If they say Patch then they're my people."

W "What do you like to do off the field?"

H "I like to bowl. Me, my pops and my brother, we bowl a lot. That's my hobby."

W "Were you always a running back?"

H "My first year in Pop Warner I played cornerback because they already had a running back but the next year I was at RB and I've stayed there ever since. My older brother was my inspiration because I used to go to all his games when he played running back at Diamond Bar in the mid 90's. He would get me motivated and had me out there with my other brother doing the workouts with him so we were all running backs."

W "Who were the NFL running backs you admired as a kid?"

H "Marshall Faulk. I had a tape that had the NFL's greatest running backs and I watched all of them like Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Eric Dickerson, Bo Jackson. I watched the Bo Jackson tape a lot. Marcus Allen, I watch them all."

W "What was it like trying to prove yourself as a young player at a school like Long Beach Poly?"

H "I love going to a new place and shocking people because I moved from Carson right before I started at Poly so nobody really knew who I was. The first person I got introduced to was Marcedes Lewis and he was playing quarterback at the time but I looked around at the running backs and they were my size so I knew I just had to go out there and show them what I could do. I guess I kind of came out of the blue to them but I just played the game that I love to play and it all started from there."

W "What memories stand out from your sophomore year?"

H "My offensive linemen. That year they really helped me grow a lot. There were a lot of seniors on that line, a lot of good friends, and they were a veteran group so they would get in my ear and let me know what was going on."

W "Your junior year featured something that had never been accomplished before at LB Poly HS, what does the 2,000 yard mark mean to you?"

H "To be honest it means a lot but yet it doesn't mean too much. I didn't know it at the time because when I'm playing I don't really keep up too much with my stats, I just play and whatever comes then it comes, but one game my running back coach pulled me aside and told me about it. It was cool but I don't really get excited over too much like that. If we're winning, we're winning and that's it."

W "What memories stand out from your junior year?"

H "I started developing my vision, my movement from side to side got a little better and I was able to hit the right holes. My sophomore year I was just running straight to the hole and hoping it was there but by my junior year my cutbacks were to the point where I could be running to the left but if the hole was to the right I could make the adjustment. I felt that I picked up a lot as we progressed through the season in terms of feeling the blocks, seeing the whole field and taking advantage of it."

W "In your senior season there was the game with DeLaSalle. Talk about that experience."

H "It was good. Playing a good team in front of an enormous crowd of people, it was a good game even though it didn't turn out the way we hoped. I try not to think about it too much because we really should have won that game, there was a lot of mistakes and opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. I was really working hard, we all were, trying to get that victory and it hurts that it didn't happen. DeLaSalle, they're a real disciplined team, very fundamentally sound and they kept it simple. I think we were trying to do too much and if we'd kept it a little more simple things might have turned out different."

W "Your team had as much hype surrounding it as any in the country. Did that effect you guys?"

H "At a school like Poly you get a little taste of the attention when you are younger so by the time we were seniors we were pretty used to it. Our coaches were always on us as well telling us not to let the hype get to our heads because it would mess up our game on the field and I think we did a pretty good job of keeping a level head and blocking everything else out."

W "What do you take from your senior season?"

H "Oh man, the senior season was great. I couldn't have asked for anything more, except for that DeLaSalle game, but it was a good year because we really got the ball spread around a lot and were more balanced. We had a passing game and a running game and things worked out pretty good."

W "What are your best attributes as a running back?"

H "Probably my vision and my feet. My feet can get me to the hole and then my vision can get me where I need to go."

W "You're often praised for your work ethic. What does work ethic mean to you?"

H "A lot. A lot. The harder you work the luckier you get. If I'm not working hard I feel like I'm not gonna get that 80 yard run or score that touchdown. I feel like every day you gotta get better because there's someone out there working hard to take you down. It's a big thing to me."

W "When people look back on your Poly career what do you hope they will say about you?"

H "I just want them to remember how good of a person I was and recognize how much hard work and dedication I put into the program. I got blessed to be at Poly during some good years and I was always dedicated to the program."

W "What are your goals at USC on and off the field?"

H "On the field it's just winning. That's my goal, whatever I do as long as we win, whatever gets done, it doesn't matter as long as we're winning. Off the field I'll be focusing on my major of business administration, I really want to get that SC degree because I want to establish a business in the LA area and I know that degree will really help me out."

W "I want to get your thoughts on three men. The first is Kirk Jones (former Poly star RB and RB coach who died last summer)."

H "A great man. Somebody that really taught me a lot about the game of football and life. He wasn't just a coach, he was a good friend to me too. If he was giving me a ride somewhere we wouldn't just talk football, he would tell me about what's going on with college and what to be aware of. A lot of people are just concerned with what you're doing for the next game but he really cared about me and I cared about him a lot. He was a good man, a real good coach too. God bless his soul, I pray for his family and him every night."

W "Pete Carroll."

H "He's an awesome guy, he's a good guy. Always got a smile on his face whenever I see him and he's a real good coach. I'm looking forward to playing for him because he knows what he's doing and I really think he's going to build a future for USC and the players."

W "Kennedy Pola."

H "Yeah, that's another great guy. He's always got a smile on his face too. He keeps the life in me, I can't wait to get started with him. I think he has a lot of knowledge to kick down to me and he's willing to teach me what I need to succeed at this level."

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