SGVTC dinner recap with Brandon Hancock

Over 200 Trojan fans gathered at Brookside Country Club last night for the annual San Gabriel Valley Trojan Club event to honor the Jess Hill Award winner. This year's recipient, fullback Brandon Hancock, also served as the emcee for the dinner which included speakers Sed Ellis, Chad Kreuter (Trojan baseball coach) and Derek and Jody Wynn (assistant coaches for USC women's hoops).

Trojan Club president Sean Kennally got things started by introducing Hancock and giving some background on the Jess Hill Award. Hill was one of the finest three sport athletes in USC history and was later athletic director at the university. Kennally also introduced the family of Ron Zavala, a longtime Trojan fan who passed away at the Rose Bowl earlier this month.

Hancock began his remarks by talking about how his radio work this past fall helped prepare him for hosting an event like this "if my feet were as fast as my lips I would be in the NFL right now".

Brandon said he had once considered attending Stanford out of high school "I was young, foolish and stupid back then" until he took a trip to the Palo Alto campus. "They say 9 out of 10 girls in California are beautiful and the 10th goes to Stanford." Brandon ended up attending a USC summer camp where he was offered a scholarship by Coach Carroll and it was during that time when Brandon got a sense of the passion and charisma of his future coach. After enrolling early at USC, the bar was set high for Brandon when Sports Illustrated did a feature on him talking about his workout routines and dedication to fitness.

It was during his freshman year that Brandon said he really noticed a shift and a change in the momentum for the USC program. "Guys like Carson and Troy, Malaefou MacKenzie, they were responsible for making it happen. After the season I saw the torch being passed from those seniors to the underclassmen, they were now the ones responsible for instilling that work ethic and pride to the younger guys on the team".

When he first arrived at USC, Brandon wanted to be a business major but he ended up choosing a communications degree with a minor in business. "Why did I choose communications? The Annenberg Communications school building is about 100 yards from our locker room and from Galen dining hall where we get free food. The communications school also had the highest ratio of girls to guys and they were all the cute sorority girls." Brandon jokingly said the only bad decision he made at USC was choosing Sunny Byrd as a roommate. Brandon said they had a karaoke machine in their apartment and it was tough on him with early morning classes because at times it felt like their apartment was the home of the American Idol auditions.

Last April Brandon got a call from an associate producer of the TV show "Scrubs" and they were looking for a stand-in for a guy with a physique. Brandon envisioned a scene with fog and him in leather pants getting his groove on. It turned out to be a homo-erotic scene with another male character. Brandon asked Coach Carroll afterwards "did you know about that?" and Carroll replied "Oh yeah". That scene earned Brandon the nickname "The Brokeback Fullback".

Shortly before the start of this season Brandon suffered a knee injury which kept him out all year. "It hurts when it's your turn to shine and then things are taken away from you in an instant. The radio job helped me stay part of things but it was still tough. We lost both myself and Ryan Powdrell and I think the injuries at fullback definitely impacted the run game this fall".

Next, Brandon brought to the stage "the heavy hitting, nose splitting nose guard, Sedrick Ellis".

Ellis talked first about coming back next year with Lawrence Jackson, about how they were roommates during their freshman year so they know each other real well. Hancock reminded the crowd that Sed set the school bench press record at 510 pounds and Sed also did 42 reps of 225 during recent workouts. Hancock asked "The ladies aren't averse to big muscles are they?" and Sed replied "I hope not because, if they are, we're both in trouble".

Sed then talked about backing-up a guy like Mike Patterson when he first got to USC. "It's great to learn from a guy like that but it's a hard transition at first. When you're in high school you're the man and then you come here and they are telling you "hey, sit and watch this guy". You say to yourself "you mean I'm not playing?"

Sed talked about how the team is already starting winter workouts and how important it is for him to help set an example for the younger guys. "This year I came in thinking, man I've been here five years, I know what I'm doing. Then Chris Carlisle comes up behind me during a drill and says "Averell Spicer is watching you" and sure enough I turned around and Averell was right there watching what I was doing. It's a reminder in this program that you have a responsibility to work hard to show the younger guys how it's done."

Hancock then told a story of a recent visit Ellis took to Cabo San Lucas where he earned a particular nickname. At first, Ellis blushingly told Brandon "you know you're going to have to go back to the locker room, right?" but then Sed told the story about how there is a particular brand of tequila called Oso Negro and one of the waiters pointed to Sed at the table "Oso Negro, black bear" and for the rest of the time everyone was calling out to him "Oso Negro, Oso Negro".

Ellis sat down and Hancock brought women's basketball assistant coaches Jody and Derek Wynn to the stage. Hancock immediately asked the married couple if it was true what he had heard about Jody wearing the pants in the family and Derek replied "I'm not going to dispute that".

Jody, who played at USC as Jody Anton, began by talking about how the team was ranked in the top 25 at the start of the year and had the #1 recruiting class in the nation before a series of injuries cost them seven of their top players. "It definitely put a damper on everything but these girls have such a strong spirit and they are so proud to represent USC". The impact of the Galen Center was also discussed as Derek said, "it opens the doors to kids who wouldn't have been interested in USC. It has picked up our awareness around the country to kids who say they saw it on TV".

Jody talked about the pre-season team bonding trips that they take. "Girls are different than guys. They need to bond before they fight and end up ignoring each other all year". They have taken trips to Big Bear, Santa Barbara and Catalina Island. "We thought Catalina would be great, the girls brought their swimsuits, but we ended up at a place called Two Harbors and it was cold and rainy, we ended up sleeping in tents, it was miserable but it was one of those times that ended up being a lot of fun."

Jody was asked about the ceremony earlier this year to honor Cheryl Miller and Lisa Leslie. Jody had played for Miller and was a teammate of Leslie's at USC. "It was an honor to be on the court when they were recognized. I think I took it for granted as a player to be coached by Cheryl Miller but it hit me at the ceremony that I was part of history. Both of those ladies have been honored as the top 5 players to ever play the game".

The final question asked by Hancock was "If there is a dispute around the house, do you play 1 on 1 to see who wins?" and Jody laughed "I can definitely out-shoot him".

The final speaker of the night was new baseball coach Chad Kreuter, a long-time major league veteran who takes over this year for his father-in-law Mike Gillespie.

The first question from Hancock was "Would you rather get hit in the head with a pitch or get hit by Rey Maualuga?" and Kreuter replied "I got run over one time by Johnny Damon and he shattered my shoulder, I still have two 7 inch plates and screws in there."

Kreuter then talked about taking the USC job "I'm humbled to be only the 4th coach in 77 years at USC and it's great to follow in the footsteps of my father-in-law, the man who I asked to marry his daughter. I always thought I would be a pro manager until Mr Garrett called last spring. I had done some volunteer coaching at USC but then headed to a job coaching the Modesto Nuts. It was then that Garrett called and asked if I wanted to come to USC." Hancock, a Fresno native, asked "How did you ever pry yourself away from Modesto?"

Kreuter said his playing and coaching style are similar to Pete Carroll as both of them went to the same high school and played for the same coaches. "I like to put the players in the line of fire at practice and let them go at it. I hear the talk around the football team of restoring the pride, restoring the program, and I like that kind of talk. I want to tell the guys we recruit that our goal is to put them in the big leagues. I only want guys for three years, then hopefully they get drafted and sign contracts for the big leagues."

Kreuter talked about several of the players for this season including incoming frosh Robert Stock, who graduated a year early from Agoura HS to enroll at USC. "He's supposed to be a senior at Agoura right now but we found a way to make it work for him to be here now. He only had to pass one English class over the summer and once that happened it was a done deal. I had talked to his father and told him that the minor leagues was no place for him to be. This is a kid who would be a top 10-15 pick in the draft and signing a contract for $2 million. He can throw 94 mph and can hit a ball 500 feet."

One of the things Kreuter also told his players is that he purchased a Breathalyzer for some early morning tests on his players. Hancock interjected "I can tell you from experience that the baseball players always throw the best parties".

After Kreuter was done speaking, Hancock gave the Trojan crowd one last piece of hopeful news. "Many of you have been asking about my future plans and I can say that the paperwork was finalized by the NCAA and they have approved my application for a sixth year of eligibility. I'm still waiting to get a further medical evaluation on my knee to see what kind of possible long-term effects there would be for me to play. I'm a person who has always believed in a healthy lifestyle, mind body and spirit, so I don't want to do anything that would put that at risk for the future. I should have an answer on that very soon."

Thanks to Sean Kennally once again for putting on the event and, in a message to Christina Kennally (Sean's daughter who is studying abroad this semester), your dad misses you very much.

Brandon Hancock and family

Hancock and family with Jess Hill Award

The Zavala family

Hancock chats with USC fans

"Oso Negro" with Sean Kennally


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