"It was from the first one I ever played in, 1952. I had three desires when I left high school. One was to go to a major university and play football. Two was to play against Notre Dame. The third was to play in the Rose Bowl. It wasn't in that order but that's what I wanted to do and if I went to a major university then I wanted to play in front of 100,000 fans as many times as I could. The Notre Dame game, though, that was important because my dad was a Notre Dame fan and of course I lost my father in the war, I knew I didn't want to go there and I didn't think I could make it there but I wanted to play against them and that's one of the main reasons I came to USC. To walk out for that game and look up at that stadium, I had already played in front of 100,000 people and we were going to the Rose Bowl so I said to myself "If I die tomorrow, I've lived" and that's what it was for me. We lost that day 9-0 but just going there and playing there, I've loved it every time. That's why I walk funny all the time because that's where I hurt my back. I intercepted a deflected pass and when they slammed me to the ground I heard something pop in my back. I carry that Notre Dame trophy with me every day, every moment so that game was special but they're all special. The game when O.J. ran up and down the field and we beat them back there for the first time since 1939 or something like that. That was a great day, anytime we beat the Irish was a great day. We played them back there with Charles White, Brad Budde and that team and we beat them up pretty good and won in the 4th quarter and it was great because our band was there. After the game the band came up the tunnel playing "Fight On" and "Conquest" and at Notre Dame stadium the locker room is really close and when you open the door you're right outside. We could hear some commotion as the band was leaving and I called some of the players over, some were dressed and some were half-dressed getting out of their pads but we just watched out the window as the band was marching past the Golden Dome. It was just a sea of Cardinal and Gold as if the Trojans had just conquered South Bend, Indiana which, of course, we had. Now those are things that stay there (tapping his head), it was a great scene."
"You are known for giving some great pre-game talks before the Notre Dame game."
"Oh yeah, I used to talk to them before the game, McKay used to have me talk to them and it was very easy because I would just tell them that for the rest of your life this game is going to be played and you're always going to remember taking part in this game. This is a day that will stay with you forever because USC is going to play Notre Dame forever but you'll only get one, maybe three or four chances to be a part of it and you want to make sure you come out victorious. You want to beat these guys at least once and if you don't then at least make sure you played as hard as you can. The thing I'm most proud of are the plaques hanging on my wall as part of the All-Time Notre Dame opponent team, not because I'm bragging or anything but just because it says Notre Dame vs USC. Now, if you're getting ready for the Notre Dame game and you're not fired up then there's something wrong with you. That's one of the reasons you came to USC, it's one of the reasons I came there, it wasn't hard to get me fired up. I used to have a thing, Notre Dame would line up in the end zone so that you would have to go around them to get on the field. Like hell we were going around them, we're going right through em. They had one guy who started yelling at me, calling me all sorts of names and I just said "Hey, f--- you, I'll meet you in the tunnel when we come back here". Getting ready to play a game, you don't want to stand around too long, you want to say a few words to your guys but not too much because they are so damn keyed up already. I know that's how it was for me and it's like that for everybody who plays in that game. You can't be too melodramatic in the locker room, you have to talk to them just enough because they're already steamed and ready to go. When you come down those stairs and through that tunnel, that tunnel's only five yards wide at Notre Dame, I can remember the first time I walked down there I ended up standing right next to one of their guys and I'm looking right at him and I said "This is it. That's the enemy. I've arrived, this is all I've ever wanted." Now they had a saying when you played Notre Dame to get one of them before they got you, don't ever stand around a pile cause they'll come and level you. So they're punting out of their end zone and I'm on defense, they got a guy named Huck O'Neill who's playing end and my job is to hold him up and give him a good jam. I go in there and give him a shot that knocks him back on his ass, boom, and he gets up and is chasing me yelling "You son of a b...." and I'm running down the sidelines trying to set up the picket line. The ball goes out of bounds and he comes up to me and says "I'm gonna get you" and I said "I'm waiting for you partner. Look at my number so you don't make a mistake". If you can't get fired up to play Notre Dame, if you can't get fired up to wear the Cardinal and Gold, I mean, that's why you come to SC. I don't care how many guys have worn it before, it is your turn now. It's your turn to play now. We've got all these trophies, we've got all these memories and we've had a lot of great players. I've got five of these (holds up his hand with a national championship ring), I'm very proud of that but it's not gonna help us win a game now. I want to see SC win. I want these players to understand what they have to do to win. Take no prisoners. Don't be nice. Be clean, be thorough, play hard. That's how you win. When you walk back up that tunnel and you're victorious, whew, and you get on that team bus and on that team plane. That's a sweet feeling because you know you've made history."
"How about the rivalry with UCLA?"
"I love it, I love those guys I played against, a lot of them are still my friends. There's a couple of them who live down here in Ironwood where I live and they get together for a BBQ and always invite me. It's great, we always had a great rivalry and I enjoyed beating the Bruins and they enjoy beating us. It's the biggest crosstown rivalry in the country and it's a knock 'em out game, coming down to the 4th quarter. There was one game when we came down the tunnel and they were on the field jumping up and down, trying to get all excited. They were wearing their white shoes, now SC always wore black shoes, we thought only guys from San Francisco wore white shoes, and Jimmy Sims looks at me and says "Look at those sh*ts, they think they have a chance." It was great. My first year playing we played UCLA and both of us were undefeated, the Coliseum was filled and we beat them 14-12. They were a good football team and it just so happened that our defensive captain got hurt so I had to call the defenses. I was very nervous, wanting to make sure I did the right thing and it was a great victory. I remember walking up the tunnel after the game talking to one of the UCLA players, that's what makes it great because these are guys you are going to see a lot over the years. They're the same as you, they want to win, and just the idea to be able to play in that game is special."
"In a pre-game talk some guys are nervous, some are fired up, how do you get their attention?"
"Oh, they're gonna be fired up. The weirdest feeling in the world as a football player are those times when you're so nervous that you don't want to talk to anybody, not the coach, not anybody because you are so focused and so ready for that game. Because it's a physical game and a mental game, you are going up against that other guy physically and mentally in a matter of split seconds, can you hold up, can you do this? It's like when you're gonna box or fight a guy, your adrenaline gets up right there. I used to sweat so bad on my feet and hands before a game that I couldn't put tape on my ankles until after warm-ups because the tape would get too loose. That's how nervous I was and it's like that for all football players, especially the guys who are gonna play. Now I'm not one of these guys who's in favor of dressing 5 million guys. I know some guys says "Let em all dress, they've worked hard". Nah, dress the guys that are gonna play in the game and now you've got a unit."
"You were part of a staff under John McKay that stayed together a long time. When McKay was asked what he looked for in an assistant coach he said the number one thing was recruiting, a guy had to like to recruit."
"Yeah, when you recruit you've got to go out and work, you've got to work hard and find the players who can play for you. There are only certain guys who can play at Southern Cal, at UCLA and at Notre Dame. So once you find those guys then you've got to go out and recruit em. You've got to find out everything about them, go talk to their counselor, their principal, their coaches, their parents and find out everything you can about them. When you go in for your visit you need to know about the parents too so that when you walk in that home you aren't doing it cold turkey, you're walking in there with a great deal of knowledge. There's always going to be somebody, the mother or father, who is going to help make that decision and that's the person you've got to watch all the time. You don't give them more attention but you're always watching. When you're walking into somebody's home the first thing you sell, I never sold the University of Southern California or the head coach, I always sold Marv Goux because if I could sell Marv Goux then they're going to trust Marv Goux. It's like any salesman, if you trust them then you're going to feel comfortable with them. Once I talked to them enough and I felt like I was getting through to them then it was time to sell the University of Southern California. I would talk about the head football coach, I would talk about the assistant coach who was going to be working with the son but the first thing I did was sell myself. It has to be that way if you want to do a good job. I made friends with those players I recruited and their parents, I still get Christmas cards from them and I've been gone for 20-some years. If something happens to their son at school they aren't going to call the President of the University, they're not going to call the head football coach, they're going to call you because you're the one who was in their home. Once I have that set up in recruiting then I bring in the head football coach and it's all ready to go, I can tell him who's making the decisions, who's running the show, it might be the parents or an uncle or the high school coach but there's always going to be someone running the show and you need to include that in there. Recruiting is fun, it really is."
"Was there competition among the assistants to see who could bring in the best guys?"
"No, there wasn't competition because your job was to go in your area and look for the best players. Now sometimes you could go to a high school and the coach will tell you "I've got five guys who could play for SC" and the team is 4-6. Well, if he really had five guys who could play for SC he wouldn't even need to practice, that's five gorillas he's got. That's why I wouldn't even go to every school in an area, what I would do is I would have 3 or 4 coaches in an area like Fresno or in Sacramento who I trusted and I would ask them who the players were in that region. These guys were always great to me, telling me to check out this school or letting me know there was a player at that school and then I would go take a look at the guy and get all the clippings from the paper. We always had alumni in an area who would go to games and report back, let us know who the players were. I was only interested in getting the best football players for USC and sometimes you choose a young man and he just can't play at the level of USC. When that happens it's a sad thing for the young man, not so much a sad thing for the University because he's probably going to graduate and be a great alumni, and then other times you have to look into the future and be able to see what kind of player a guy can be. I've done both, there have been some guys where you say if I had to do it over again I wouldn't bring him in and then there are others where I've taken a chance on the guy and he turned out to be a helluva football player. I knew the coach at Lompoc High and one year I was recruiting one of his players who ended up at Arizona, pretty good player. The coach called me and told me about a guy they played against at Glendale High who was real good and I trusted his opinion so I went to look at some film. I'm watching the film and I'm supposed to be watching both players but I'm just looking at Duane Bickett the whole time, I ended up watching the film three times and I came back to John Robinson and told him there was a good football player at Glendale High we needed to take a look at. At the time we had some assistant coaches who had moved on so we didn't have anyone covering that area but I told John this guy was one heck of a football player. I borrowed the film from the coach at Lompoc and on the film you could see Bickett doing things and John said "He really looks like one" and I said "Yeah". Well, coach goes over and takes a look and it turns out we ended up being the only guys recruiting him. When you talked to Duane it was even better because he has it all up here (pointing to head), he's a total committed man. So that's an example of a guy you just find, you start out looking for a guy in your area and you find somebody else."
"What did you look for in a player?"
"The thing you have to find out when you're watching film is what has the guy been told to do, what can he do and so forth. Can he run, can he get off the ground, does he have good balance, can he use his hands? If he can do those things then it's easier to teach him because he's already got some skills. You can go in the weight room and pick up some of these guys, hell they can't even play in a broom closet. They're big, good looking guys but they can't play, they're not football players. Football players are born, you don't make them, they're born and then you take them and do what you want to do with them for your defense, for your offense. He's got to have that attitude that he wants to play football."
"What do you think of the college football game of today? Do you like what you see?"
"I watch a lot of college football. I hate to see what you see on Sundays, sometimes guys are taunting or punching another player and getting a 15-yard penalty, just stupid things. I think college football is as good as it's ever been, it's bigger, it's faster, it's a good game. I think sometimes some of the players are too specialized "I only run this pattern on this day" or "I only return punts when it's October 23rd". Just play football. Just go out there and play football. Catch the ball, run with the ball, tackle the guy with the ball, block the guy. Do all the things that you do when you play football. Keep your mouth shut and just play. Play hard. If you make a play, you're supposed to make a play. When a guy scores a touchdown don't spike the ball, I'm waiting for the day when a guy scores and runs over to place the ball on the conversion line for the extra point. There's nothing wrong with that. You don't need to show off, hell, there were 10 other guys who blocked for you or a quarterback who threw the pass while the others did their jobs. It's good to be excited and so forth but I see guys who are coming over to the sidelines and they're taking their helmets off and looking up into the crowd. I say "What the hell, we'd a killed this guy, he wouldn't have lived". You go over and take a seat with the other guys and you play the game, you play the whole game. I had a saying "Take No Prisoners", play the game for 60 minutes. If you score a touchdown don't get all excited because they can come right back and score one. Keep playing until you demoralize them, until you beat that other guy into the ground and you win. That's how you play football. You take no prisoners. You don't become a nice guy. Nice guys take prisoners. Take no prisoners, that's how you win. Then when you run up that tunnel nobody's gonna boo you or throw stuff at you. They're gonna hail you (thumps his chest and raises his fist in the air)"