Thank you very much.
You were one of the first commits in your class. Talk about how you got sold on USC so early on in the recruiting process.
Now that I think about it, I think I might have actually been Coach Carroll's first commit that he ever had. When you are recruited by the Trojans, it's a pretty special thing. Not many people represent the University the way Coach Carroll and his staff do, the way they perform, and how they recruit. I was just fortunate enough to be able to get a scholarship from these guys. I figured if I got offered from these guys and Coach Carroll was going to be the head coach, and I felt comfortable with the coaching staff, I knew it would be a special place and it would behoove me to commit. I was so excited just to be able to be here and be with all these guys. It's a pretty special thing.
Talk about the moment you were offered, and did you commit on the spot?
I was offered my junior year. It was at school. I was talking to Coach Carroll on the phone at my then-head coach Ernie Cooper's desk. We were talking about football and when we got done, he said something along the lines of, "Do you want to be a Trojan?" and, "We're going to offer you a scholarship." It was one of the first scholarships I earned. It was one of the coolest moments, but I didn't commit right away. For the most part, just about every school was offering me. I knew I wanted to stay in the west coast. I liked Oregon quite a bit, and also liked Washington, but I knew none could compare to what USC could offer, the football team, and also academically.
You're often described as a "cerebral" player.
That's a good compliment, definitely. That's what I try to be out there, a smart player, a headsy player. I think one of my strengths is being able to go out there and figure out what is going on, and try to look around and find some stuff and help some people out, and point out some tendencies. I think that is one of my strong points. That's the way I play my game.
Your father also played football at Oregon State. How might that have impacted your mental and physical game?
Just being raised by him and my mom helped. Not necessarily playing football, it was just the way they raised me, the way they taught me to be a man, to be a competitor, and an athlete. The way they pushed me when I was growing up, from playing recreational soccer all the way to high school football. The way they pushed me and made me the athlete I am today.
Was your grandfather pretty influential as well in your sports life?
Yes, definitely. He played a little football. He was a big inspiration to me. He was a man that did it all and loved life. He was a fighter pilot, a gold glove boxer, a professional hydroplane racer. He did everything he wanted to and definitely is a big part of my life, made me who I am today.
You are a rare two-time captain. Talk about what that honor has meant to you.
It is definitely a great honor, to say I have been that. The cool thing is that it's not voted by the coaches, it's voted by the peers. That makes me feel pretty special inside that those guys thought that highly of me two years in a row, to be the leader, the representative of the team. I was pretty blessed to be that.
You've been part of a pretty incredible run at USC. What kind of memories will you take with you?
There've been so many great memories, I don't know where to start, really. The games have been great. I definitely look back and tell stories about the games like stopping Oklahoma. Nobody thought we had a chance and we went out there and shut them down. Also, the Michigan game last year at the Rose Bowl. There are plenty of memories. But also, one of the big things is meeting all of the people out there throughout the process. I met a lot of nice people, great people, and best friends. I'll take those relationships with me for the rest of my life.
You mentioned meeting a lot of people and that being an important part of your time here at USC. Many former Trojan athletes come back and visit campus. Do any stand out who you've gotten to meet?
The Trojan Family is very close. So when people come back, players come back, you're talking to them, seeing how they're doing. There's a common bond, players come back and chat and work out, whether it's players I never played with, or guys like Matt Cassel who come back for a couple of work outs and act like we did back in the day. Matt Cassel was back a couple of weeks ago, just a great guy, and pretty fun to have around.
You've had many memorable moments. Describe your favorite play at USC. Do any tackles or sacks stand out more?
I'd say my sack at the end of that first Rose Bowl versus Michigan. It was pretty cool to get that last sack out there at the Rose Bowl as a sophomore.
What about your favorite game?
I'd say this last year's Rose Bowl was pretty cool, with all of the hype between Michigan and USC, two big powerhouses coming together. To be able to go out there and basically dominate and do whatever we wanted to do to them was a pretty cool thing. The way the defense came together at the end there, and the way we played. It was kind of fun to let it all develop and come together. It was a great game for us.
One of the more memorable games that you've been involved in is the 2005 Orange Bowl, where you basically shut down the highly touted Adrian Peterson, and made it look easy.
Basically what it comes down to is if you give Coach Carroll and his staff a month to prepare for a game, it is going to be a good thing for us, because he is a mastermind up there with his guys. We didn't do anything too special. I think we actually just ran a couple of base plays, and played really good, solid defense, and just shut them down. It wasn't anything above and beyond what we knew we could do. We basically just went out there and played the game, and shut them down.
What was it like playing with Matt Grootegoed, Lofa Tatupu, Shaun Cody?
It was pretty cool. It's fun to watch those guys right now and see them on Sunday playing. Really great guys, and great football players. They were always there to just talk to, to help out. When they come back, you're going out to dinner and lunch with them, and catching up. Grootegoed was the guy in front of me when I got here. He definitely contributed to my development. He's a really good player, a smart player, a headsy player, and taught me a lot about the game, strategy, and techniques. He was the guy who I looked up to when I was here, and the guy who I wanted to try and beat out. He taught me a whole bunch, and he is really just nice guy.
Describe the different coaching styles of Coaches Seto and Norton. What have you learned from them?
Those guys are tremendous coaches. They compliment each other perfectly. Rocky is a great guy. He hasn't been around as long as Norton has but he's a great coach and loves his job, and is a smart, smart coach. He knows the schemes, and is just a great guy to play for. He makes you want to go out there and play every day and get suited up and play for him. And Norton is Ken Norton Jr. He speaks for himself. He's an awesome guy and I've just been so blessed to able to say that I played under that guy. He's one of the greatest linebackers ever to play the game, and I also feel he's one of the greatest coaches. He also makes you want to go out there and practice every day. He lights that fire in you and gets you motivated. He wants to get you better, and you want to get better for him. It's just amazing to be able to say I played for both of them, they're both great guys.
What is your favorite off campus eating spot?
Fatburger is always good. Every once in a while I can splurge and get it. (Laughs.)
Talk about USC's future at the linebacker position, and the people you're leaving behind.
I was watching spring ball a couple of days ago. They all looked amazing. Rey and Keith are really solid at the inside spots. I think Rey has definitely stepped up into the role he knows he needs to be in, in that Mike linebacker spot. The sky's the limits for that guy. I think Keith Rivers is always definitely going to be a solid player out there. He's a good playmaker for us, and is just big time. Cushing is coming back to linebacker this year and he too is just going to be awesome. I know he's a little dinged up right now but he's a tremendous player, and has a lot of talent, and a lot of skill. Kaluka is a tremendous player with a great nose for the ball. He reminds me a lot of Troy Polamalu out there, the way he plays, the way his instincts take over, and the way he goes after the ball. Luthur Brown is starting to come into his own right now and be the player that he wants to be.
You had a pretty impressive Pro Day performance. What teams have been talking to you and what kind of buzz has there been?
I had a private workout with the Patriots. Their west coast scout and linebacker coach came out here, so it was pretty fun to go out there and run around a little bit with the Patriots. I've been chatting with Matt Cassel a little bit throughout this process. You hear stuff all the time about whether you're moving up or down in the draft, but I really try not to pay attention to that. What matters is if a team or a coach likes you out there, and that's what counts.
Are you graduating?
Yes. I'm all done. I walked last May, but I finished my minor last semester. I have a communications degree and a business law minor.
After football, what are your career goals? Or maybe more schooling?
Definitely no more school for me. (Laughs.) Five years was enough. I just want to see where football takes me. Hopefully I'll be able to do that for a little while, and then, if not, I think USC prepared me for a lot of different aspects of the world. I'll figure it out when it comes to it.
Did you know Mario Danelo well?
Yes, pretty well. Everybody knew him pretty well. He definitely touched everybody's life. He was a pretty cool guy, and always had a smile on his face. You'd walk in the locker room and say something, and he would come back with something funny, just being a goof. He was always the guy who would lighten up your day. Everybody on this football team I can honestly say knew him pretty well, he touched so many people's lives.
Any departing words to the USC fans out there?
I just want to say it's been a great ride with all of you guys for the past five years. I couldn't imagine how much fun I would have out here and how many great people I'd meet. I never thought it would be as special as it has been, but you guys out there made it special for me. Thanks to everyone out there who came to support us. It's been a great ride and I'm going to miss you all. Fight on.