Exit Interview: Ryan and Brandon Ting

In the latest installment of our senior Exit Interviews, WeAreSC sits down with Brandon and Ryan Ting to discuss their recent announcement that they will be leaving the USC football team to focus on their plans for medical school.

Note - The announcement by the Tings caught many in the Trojan Family by surprise as the two were headed into their senior seasons as veteran leaders on the team who were expected to play increased roles. Brandon had been one of the biggest hitters in the most recent spring ball practice sessions from his safety position and he would have been considered a top reserve at that spot. Ryan had moved over to offense during spring to help fill the slot receiver role and performed well, he also provided one of the highlight moments of the Trojan Huddle with a 75 yard punt return. Even after their decision to leave the program, the Tings took part in summer conditioning drills with the team to help mentor the younger players and pass along their knowledge and information about what it means to play Trojan football. - Garry Paskwietz

We're here for the Exit Interviews of Brandon and Ryan Ting, one year earlier than Trojan fans expected. Thank you for being here today.

B & R: Thanks for having us.

Let's talk about your decision to come to USC. What made you pick USC over Harvard, any of the other Pac 10 Schools?

B: Coach Carroll was the first head coach to show complete interest in us. It's a school that people dream of going to. USC is a top school academically; and the football tradition.

R: USC embodies everything. It's a fusion of academics and sports. The tradition of football. Coach Carroll and the coaching staff completed it, they made us want to play for USC. USC was the total package.

Talk about the moment you were offered by USC.

R: Coach Carroll called us a little after the ‘SC camp our junior year. He flew up the next week, stopped by and expressed that he wanted us to be a part of the Trojan Family. A couple of days followed. He called the house. I picked up. He explained he wanted us to be a part of the Trojan Family. I was floating on air. I was so happy. I just remember saying yes. I think I even verbally committed for Brandon without passing the phone to him. (Laughs.)

B: We were very excited. It was one of our dreams to play college football. We always felt that all of that hard work, the camps, finally paid off. Our parents always said if you work hard it will pay off and it did. It also meant more that we were both offered. Some twins get split up. It was fortunate that all the schools that offered us made offers to us both.

Your parents both have ties to USC. What did it mean for you to play for the Trojans?

B: It's something we could have never imagined. Our parents' first date was at the Rose Bowl. Our mom says she has to pinch herself once in a while when she goes to the games seeing us play for USC.

R: Our mom has a jersey with 38 in the front, 39 in the back. People come up to us and say she likes Brandon more because 38 is in the front.

B: I try to run with that as much as I can.

R: But then when she turns around, it's 39.

Brandon, talk about the interception you had against Fresno State.

B: That was one of those moments I'll never forget as a Trojan football player just because I don't really cherish the fact that I got an interception so much as I value that it was at a crucial time and I was helping the team. Just to contribute. I'm happy that I made the most of my opportunity and Reggie scored on the next drive. It's one of the moments I am really fond of looking back on.

Ryan, what about that very key interception late against Arizona?

R: It was my first interception. Just to have it at that time, it was definitely a moment I'll never forget. Just like my brother, making that play, making that stop, just proved what Coach Carroll talks about. You always compete. You never give up.

Favorite plays during your career?

R: I've had lots of moments. I guess that interception against Arizona, the interception at Cal. But the moments that stick out the most for me are not really plays. Just coming down the tunnel before the game. My first ever play when Coach Holt put me in on a kick-off against Auburn in a hostile environment as a freshman. I'll never forget the rush on kick-off. Then the interception at Cal. We're from up north and a lot of our high school teammates and friends were at that game so that made that interception all that more sweet.

B: For me, it's the camaraderie. When all is said and done, the stuff you do. Preparation leading up to the game. Sweating with your teammates. Just being accountable, having responsibility. The whole ‘SC experience. It's something you can't describe unless you've been through it. It's been crazy, and unforgettable. As for specific plays that stand out, it would be the Fresno State game interception.

What game did you enjoy being a part of the most?

B: Every single game had its value. If I had to single out a game, it would be our first game against Auburn. Just because being a freshman and being able to go into Alabama with the city's history and seeing how hostile the fans were. That was our first experience of a college game. It broke us into what college football was all about.

R: I think the Orange Bowl was my favorite, just because the year before we accomplished a lot and were National Champions, but that one was nice because we won it outright and there was so much build up to that game. We were underdogs. To win it outright in the fashion we did was something nice to be a part of. You can't single out one game. There were so many. Notre Dame with Dwayne [Jarrett] and Matt [Leinart]...

How did you balance being Academic All Americans with football and the time demands of both?

B & R: Our whole lives we've been able to balance both football and school. Those two have always been high on our priority list. We've been able to manage it because our identities our whole lives have been being student athletes. It definitely disciplines you to maximize the time that you have. The little time you have you have to put that to school, like the time off of football. We have a strict schedule that allowed us to manage. You learn to make the most of your free time. Practice and football helped us.

When did you first seriously consider leaving the Football Program?

B & R: In January. The coaches were very supportive of where we stood, as far where our mindset was on football and school. Coach Carroll has always shown that what he wants is what's in our best interest. Kind of like a father. He analyzed the situation like a father would. He gave us advice and was very supportive. We were on the same wavelength where we wanted what was best for the team. He really cares about individual players. Coach Carroll and Mike Garrett have been extremely supportive throughout this whole process. Coach Carroll first discussed it with Mike Garrett. We had to be realistic with ourselves, as far as us getting into the post baccalaureate program, which is a huge commitment. We wanted to take on that commitment and it got to a point where we realized we couldn't balance both. And it was hard because growing up, and up until now, we've always been student athletes. Coach Carroll was very supportive with our thought process. That's why we mentioned it to him in January before Spring Ball, because we were not fully committed; we thought it was best for Coach Carroll to know.

Was this the hardest decision you had to make?

B & R: One of the hardest. We struggled through the spring with it, weighing out the pros and cons. And by any means, we didn't want to be distractions to the team, so we didn't tell them. The football team is a family, and we knew that our decision had to be what we wanted 100%. One of the hardest things was walking away because of the relationships with the players and the coaches. We wanted to stick around to help the freshmen. We discussed with Coach Carroll about doing all of the summer work outs just because we wanted to be around, and not only that, but our commitment to the team wasn't up in terms of the scholarship year. During spring, we were scarce at wide receiver and we wanted what was best for the team. We were also scarce at defensive back. That's why I [Ryan] moved to receiver in the spring, because we needed guys at receiver. Coach Carlisle was very supportive as well. We established friendships and ties with the freshmen who did come in and we felt that for freshmen being away from home, jumping in the program, we wanted to be there for them as well, to stick around and contribute to the end.

What was the reaction of your family to your decision to leave USC Football?

B &R: They were very involved. We mentioned it to our family in January and they were extremely supportive. They wanted our decision to be well thought out. We told them we reached the point where we were at a crossroads and we had to pick one, because we couldn't manage labs, classes and give 100% to both. For us, we give 100% passion to everything we do and it just reached the point where we realized we had to focus on our passion on school and the huge commitment of the post-baccalaureate program. They just wanted us to feel we were making the right decision, and we struggled with it, but we feel we made the best decision because in the future that's what we want to do - we want to become doctors and help people.

Your teammates were shocked to learn you were leaving.

B & R: We didn't want to be a distraction to the team. The football team is a family. We mentioned it to some of the guys on the team, and they didn't really believe us. We are kind of embarrassed at how much attention has come of this. We're not like Reggie Bush. We're reserve players.

You have to know that you are both very well respected by the USC community.

B & R: We know that. Through all of this, the fans have been very supportive. We show up every day, every Saturday for the fans. Throughout our years at USC, they have been supportive, the Herd, everyone. They've been extremely welcoming. The response we've seen is very gratifying.

How tough is it for you guys knowing fall camp is right around the corner and you won't be there?

B & R: It's tough because any athlete will experience withdrawals. We've prepared our mindset to accept what our future holds. Every former athlete would say it's hard. Even Coach Carroll mentioned he would have withdrawals when he was done. We're excited and sad at the same time.

Antwine Perez and Taylor Mays rave about you two. Clearly you've been influential to them. How do you project our secondary will look like in the future?

B & R: We should be fine with guys like Terrell Thomas, Kevin Ellison, even though they might be young, they're still big factors. Taylor Mays and Antwine Perez will help immediately. It's amazing how much talent is coming in. They're loaded.

What will you miss most about USC Football?

B: The intangibles. The butterflies in the stomach when you step on the bus going to the Coliseum. Anyone who says they don't get butterflies is lying. Just the build-up, the hard work, and the payoff, winning the game, that people usually take for granted. Of course there are moments that we cherish, we'll even miss waking up early for work outs. (Smiles.)

R: For me, the little things people don't always see, like all of the preparation that goes into each game, each week's preparation, every film studied. The whole "behind the scenes," so to speak. The jokes in the locker room, that no one else gets to see. The camaraderie. The fans. Although we're still going to be around. We were joking around with Reggie Bush last night because we were telling him we'd still be there to fix his iPod. And Desmond Reed, too. It's been great just being around our teammates.

You have one year of eligibility left. What are your plans for that year? Some people have speculated that you are looking to transfer?

B & R: No. It's all baseless rumors and speculation. We've made our decision that we're going to the post-baccalaureate program at USC. We're in ‘SC's program. We want to stay Trojans, and ideally go to the Keck School of Medicine.

Tell us about the post-baccalaureate program.

B & R: It's kind of like a grad school for people who want to go to medical school. It's the labs and science classes needed to go to medical school, and it correlates with the Keck School. It's all of the pre-med requirements. It's a fairly new program. John Michels, another former Trojan football player, went through the program and now is at Keck. We've had a chance to talk with him a lot about the program. The program ranges from 1 to 1 ½ years, with a 2 year ceiling. We'll be starting the program this coming fall. Because we were graduating, we felt the timing was right to go into the program at this time.

When did you decide you wanted to be doctors?

B & R: At the Phi Beta Kappa ceremony this past spring. We always knew we wanted to help people, and being doctors - what our father does, what we've seen him do since we were young - that's what we want to do. It's always been at the back of our minds. We're still not sure what exact field we will look to pursue but we will figure that out when we get in the program.

You took part in spring ball and performed well, as it turns out that was your final appearance in a Trojan uniform.

B & R: That was a great experience. We talked to Coach Carroll about Spring Ball, and we thought about how our presence in Spring Ball, on the field, would bring more value to the younger guys, showing them the way, how things are supposed to be done. We kind of took on the responsibility of being sort of coaches and motivators, mentors, while the coaches were not around.

Do you plan to be involved in any way with the football team this coming year?

B & R: We've expressed to all of the coaches that we want to continue our relationships with the team. We're always going to be around, and will be attending classes on campus for the post-baccalaureate program. A lot of [former players] come around. The coaches have expressed to us that they want us around. They have been supportive in every form.

You are role models for many in the Asian community. Any advice for up and coming people with similar backgrounds who want to get into football?

B & R: The harsh reality is that there is an absence of Asians in sports. But it doesn't matter what ethnicity you are. If football is your passion, and you give 100% to it, there is nothing that can stop you. It might sound like a cliché. But as for our experience, it was true. We didn't have many Asian role models in football to look up to growing up. We took on being role models unconsciously and didn't know what impact we had until little Asian children started coming up to us saying they looked up to us. There are Asian kids in Pop Warner who e-mail us. It's special knowing that people look up to us. When you're you growing up, race never really plays a factor just because as kids growing up, you just want to play. But as you get older, it is unavoidable. We take race in stride because when we were young, we didn't think we were doing anything out of the norm.

How do you want to be remembered?

B: Ultimately, we want to be remembered as people who did what they could for the team in any which way or form - and had fun doing it. We want to be remembered as hard workers who, when given the opportunities, did what they could to help the team. Our teammates know who we are and I'm sure, based on the relationship we've had with the fans, they know who we are as people, too. Hopefully that will take precedence over some of the negative experiences we've had.

R: No disrespect to you guys [WeAreSC.com] because we love what you do. But we really don't go on the message boards ever since the Texas game - because of that play where many have criticized me for not making the interception. It kind of disheartened me. It was disheartening because after the game, people I didn't even know would call me, and e-mail me. I got death threats--

Are you serious..."death threats"?!

R: Yeah. It's crazy. It was disheartening for me because we have read the message boards in the past. But I think it crossed the line and got to the point where I was going to try to block it out. Since that game, hearing those comments...of course it's not everyone, and the fans for the most part have been very supportive of us. But it kind of took its toll on me just because I was criticized for the choices I made during that play. But the public doesn't know what went on during that play.

Do you want to talk about that play against Texas?

R: The play was where we were in zone coverage and I had the area underneath in the flats. The Texas tight end [Thomas] released to the flat - it was a broken play - and Vince Young rolled out and scrambled. It was one of things where, when you get a response like that, to use an analogy, you miss a problem on an exam so you go back to talk to the instructor to analyze your mistake and what went wrong or what happened during the problem. I've looked at the film [of that play] a million times. Some people have said I made the wrong choice, but Vince Young was rolling out and Thomas drifted up the field on me so that I was underneath and going up with the ball when Young released it. I was off-balance because I lost my balance and I lost the ball in the light. Our coaches always tell us at the very least to break up the pass. I was going for the interception and it hit my shoulder. For me, I think I did the next best thing - I tried for the interception, but I still at least broke up the pass. Coach Burns and Coach Carroll always tell us: if anything, go for the interception, but at least break up the pass because that's ultimately what you want to do. For me, I don't want to be remembered [just for that one play]. As Mr P (Garry Paskwietz) said, we had a good spring, and in his eyes we accomplished a lot and ended on a positive note.

Judging by the reactions of the fans after your announcement last week, it seems as if you will be remembered for much more than that play.

R: We don't want to downplay our fan support because we know how gratifying their support has been. We feel the USC Trojan tradition is the best a college athlete could have. It's the epitome of college football and we've loved the fans' support the whole way. So, in no way are we diminishing their support of us, or how awesome they've been as Trojans. It was just a few incidents that stuck out, it was disheartening because it took me out of it - it really puts the game in perspective.

B & R: As an athlete, we're going to have critics - you're always under the spotlight. We've developed thick skins. In the last couple days though we've heard from our teammates that have called and told us that the message boards are "blowing up" with messages that are very supportive of us, and we thank the fans for all their support.

Any last words for the Trojan fans?

B & R: We love the fans. We want to thank the fans for being so supportive. We can't thank them enough. We have the best fans in the land. Actually, that's what made our decision that much harder. We're always going to be Trojans and a part of the Trojan Family. That's just what the Trojan Tradition brings. As far as next year, the team is going to be fine. And we're going to be there, supporting them the whole way. They look like they're poised to have another great year and, hopefully, win another National Championship and keep the Tradition alive.

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