Center Matt Spanos: Guts, Strength and Glory
At the end-of-season USC Football Awards banquet, center Matt Spanos won the "Courage Award." Spanos is on a long list of 5th year seniors who concluded their college careers at the end of the Rose Bowl game on January 1. He has been an exemplary Trojan and played the season hampered by numerous injuries. Yet, through those injuries, Spanos played the game with a lot of heart.
Why the Courage Award?
Imagine fighting through academic qualification issues. Imagine being in your fifth year of a challenging Trojan Football program. Then imagine, after sitting out spring ball, finally qualifying for your last year of football before the start of fall camp. Imagine, yet again, fighting to find your space on a very talented offensive line. Then, finally, he was named starting center, after five years.
Matt Spanos started for the Trojans at Center in all but three (injury) games
Now, ready to start his fifth and final campaign, just days before the season starts, Spanos tore his triceps muscle. After five years, earning the spot then it all gets taken away. Freshman Kristopher O'Dowd fills in nicely and looked to secure the position. Not to be denied, Spanos continued his rehabilitation. Then, in an odd twist of fate, O'Dowd suffered an injury during the third game of the season, and Spanos is just about complete with his rehabilitation.
Spanos steps right back in and secures the position. And never lets go. He played for a month, at one point with a gash in his hand that required stitches, which almost tore off his finger, but he would not "let go," so to speak. Spanos played through, pain, injury and against all odds to complete his senior season. On the starting roster.
Matt Spanos played through torn triceps, a gimpy knee, and a mangled finger to complete his senior season. Spanos played with stitches, an elbow brace and knee braces at various times in the season.
Matt Spanos Reflects on His Career
"This was my 5th year, theRose Bowl is a pretty big deal, we've been there quite a few times now, (4 of last 5 years), it's always a big, you have the home crowd with you. It's always good to go out there and represent the PAC-10, a lot of these West Coast teams against the popular, dominant Big-10, Midwest schools. This was my fifth bowl game and 4th Rose Bowl."
So what is his best Bowl memory? Spanos said, "Definitely learned a lot from all of the Rose Bowls, the coolest bowl game was the Oklahoma (Orange Bowl). They were supposed to have been ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread, we really took it to them."
His thoughts on lessons learned, "One of the biggest lessons learned was that Texas game, that no matter how much you get talked up, anyone can get beaten. It was a good lesson to carry over to the following season."
Spanos reflected on the relationships he's had at USC, he said "The people I've met, people I consider family now. The people I came in here with, like Drew (Radovich) and Sam (Baker) and a bunch of the younger guys. The relationships I've built here is what I'll miss the most."
Before the Rose Bowl, Spanos said, "I'd like to get a win, go out on a good note, do what we can to let some of these seniors go out on a positive note. Get J.D. (Booty) a bunch of yards, get Chauncey (Washington) a bunch of yards, to get these seniors their last hurrahs." Result – mission accomplished, Booty is now the record holder for the Rose Bowl with seven touchdown passes in two games. Chauncey Washington got two touchdowns (one receiving and one rushing).
After the Rose Bowl, his thoughts were, "Hopefully I have a shot at the NFL. I hear a lot about me in the NFL, it's every kid's dream, when you start playing football. So I hope that works out, if not, hopefully I'll take that degree that I earned and do something with it."
Good luck, Mr. Courage, Matt Spanos.