The Chairman of the Board: Hershel Dennis Makes a Statement
Hershel Dennis has been on this team for six years. In those six years, the Trojans have won six Pac-10 Championships, an AP national title and a BCS title. USC has been to six BCS bowl games as well.
Before the Rose Bowl
We asked Hershel Dennis what he thought the significance of the Rose Bowl is, he responded, "You know it means a lot to me, it's my fourth Rose Bowl experience, just to be going through it again, it's a wonderful experience. To go out my last year here, I couldn't ask for anything better."
What was his best bowl experience (before the 2008 Rose Bowl)? Dennis said, "Going out to Miami."
His best memory was, "The Michigan victory in the Rose Bowl ('03), they were doubting us, we just played the way we know how to play and everything took care of itself. Just being there with those guys, doing the Rose Bowl experience was one of my best memories."
We then asked Dennis what his one wish for the Rose Bowl would be, he replied, "I wish that we win the game and that everybody stays healthy. Whatever chance I get in this bowl game, whether it is on special teams or whatever, I'll go out and try to make a statement and make a mark before I leave here."
Who was the best opponent (team) he's faced? He said, "Texas, they beat us, but it came down to the wire. Everybody else, we just blew out."
After the Rose Bowl
On the field after the Rose Bowl victory, we caught up with Dennis to get his thoughts. He said, "There's no greater feeling than that, to claim your territory and just take over the place. It's a beautiful thing." Dennis continued, "Since I can remember, this is my best moment here."
When was his last touchdown prior to the Rose Bowl? "It's been a long time, I was afraid I was going to leave here without getting a touchdown. The coaches blessed me, keeping me in there and letting me run it in. So I thank them for that. It feels great to go out like that. I was hoping he'd give me that chance, we were beating them by 35. I went in there, took advantage and seized the opportunity."
Dennis described the touchdown, "When I hit the ground I looked at the ground and put the ball out. I hoped I put the ball over the goal line and I looked at the ref threw his hands up it was all joy for me. And I saw all my teammates running after me, there's no better feeling than that."
Reflecting on the Season
Dennis spoke about how the season transpired, "I was feeling frustrated early on (this season), when I got back and I was healthy. I should have been out there playing, but I don't dwell on things too much. I get over things real fast, and I start looking at it as a positive. I kept my body healthy, work on my skills to be as good as I can be. I couldn't waste my time on crying and complaining that I wasn't playing. I just kept a positive attitude around the team and kept everybody's spirit up. And just did whatever I could do."
He reflected on the six long years, "It feels good to win as many Pac-10 (championships) and to win all of these games (in the last six years), it's a great honor. It's the best experience, winning all of those games. I couldn't ask for anything better. With the national championship teams and this team, it's all the same, we have the same mentality, it's just different players with the same attitude."
His mother, Rose Teofilo, stood next to him on the field and said, "I was happy and crying at the same time when he got his touchdown. I love him so much, I was so happy, I love it, I love it!"
Dennis' father, Hershel Dennis Sr. exclaimed, " I feel real great about it, Hershel went through a lot of adversity and he stuck with it. The most important thing is that he got his degree in Sociology and I'm very proud of him. I was so happy that the Lord gave him the opportunity to make a touchdown in his last game, here in the Rose Bowl."
Chasing a Dream, A man with a Heart
Dennis then reflected on the injuries and trying to make a come back, he said, "It's been tough, it's been a hard road, but it helped me grow as a man. It helped me deal with a lot of stuff that a lot of players haven't dealt with yet. I'm glad I dealt with all of that stuff early in my career so I can move on now."
So what's next for Dennis? "I'm just getting ready for the next level. I'm getting my body right and trying to make an NFL team."
He concluded, "I plan to get ready for the combine, working out, get my body ready to run a 4.3, hopefully an NFL team will be interested in me. I'll go to the USC Pro Day and try to make the best of it."
Good luck and best wishes to Hershel Dennis.