Q & A with Allan Graf

Allan Graf played offensive guard for USC from 1970-72 and was a starter on the 1972 national title team. His son Derek plays for the Trojans now and in this interview Allan gives his thoughts on a wide variety of topics regarding USC football.

WeAreSC "What has been the biggest change you've seen this year for the Trojans?"

Allan Graf "The fact that they know they can win, they have a winning attitude.  I think that's helped a lot.  Once you start winning games your confidence gets better and you can see that with this team.  They've gained maturity over the last couple of years and that's a big difference."

"When did you see that start to really kick in?"

"The Oregon game. I think the Oregon game was a turning point when they could go up there and win that game.  Once they won that game handily the confidence level shot way up.  I think the Washington State game helped them along because they knew they were a good ballclub and didn't want to lose a game by missed extra points but the Oregon game was the difference.  They really were the better team on the field with Washington State that day, it's unfortunate the kicking game had some problems."

"How important has it been to establish this hard running game?"

"Really important.  You can see how much it's helped Carson in the passing attack, how the rush is not there and we're not giving up as many sacks.  Even the sacks we do give up, a lot of those are coverage sacks and that's just part of football.  When you get the running game going the old cliche is that it will help the passing attack and we've seen that to be true.  When you have three strong runners (Fargas, McCullough and MacKenzie) that kind of power is just really nice and it helps the offensive linemen a lot.  The mindset of the linemen becomes "if I even get part of my block I know the play will gain some yards".  The offensive line is just really excited coming off the ball knowing that even if they don't get a great block the guy's going to go for 4 or 5 yards.  I said that about Anthony Davis when he scored six touchdowns against Notre Dame in 1972 because he knew how to set up blocks.  He was a great running back like Marcus Allen in terms of setting blocks up.  I think Fargas has those same qualities, I think McCullough does too but he's learning it and it takes a while to learn that kind of great running."

"Talk about the performance of the offensive line this year."

"Well, I'm a little biased because I got excited about the first game because of my son playing.  I feel saddened for him because he had a great game and his reward was to go back to 2nd string center but it's a selfish business.  The offensive line as a whole has done a good job and not with a lot of depth.  With Derek backing up and with Eric Torres coming in at a couple of different spots, they didn't know if Eric could come in and do a great job but he has filled in admirably as a tackle and a guard.  Whoever has come in the game has done a good job and that's the key to a mature offensive line.  There's also a lot of camaraderie among the line like there was when I played.  With the maturity and a year of learning the Chow offense you can see how much that's helped."

"Talk about the impact of Tim Davis."

"Oh, he's been fantastic.  He gives the firepower like a Marv Goux on offense and he really gets the players motivated.  Tim Davis has that quality to tell you if you're doing something bad but to give you a compliment at the same time.  He's a real motivator on the offensive line and I think he's been a great asset to the Trojans this year."

"What are some of the traits that are important to succeed as an offensive lineman for Davis and this offense?"

"You've got to have fast, quick feet and that's the key.  You've got to be able to fire out and sustain but you don't have to sustain like we did in the old days.  This offense is based on a quicker pass or a run up the middle, there's not a lot of sweeps or traps per say although they did run a nice tackle trap last week.  That was the first I've seen and it worked well.  The key that they're looking for is not if you're a big guy, I don't think they care if you're a 300 pounder anymore, but they want to look for the 285 lb guy who can sustain and has quick feet.  The main thing is to have real quick feet."

"Talk about the pride you felt in that Auburn game seeing Derek on the field starting for the Trojans."

"Garry, I've been through a lot of emotional things in my life. I work in the movie business, I played football and played for a national championship team but I've never been as proud at any one moment as I was sitting in those stands watching my son.  After five years with all the hard work and the injuries he went through, to see him out there playing the same position that I played 30 years ago and to see him have a such an impact in winning that first game...if I was a baloon I would've burst because it was just such a tremendous thing.  That game was so important for USC to start off on the right track and to have him play such a great game I can't describe the feeling, we both teared up after the game and it was just quite a scene, quite a thrill for the Graf family."

"Talk about Pete Carroll."

"He's done an awesome job, hasn't he?  No one is ever going to fault Pete Carroll his defense.  I was skeptical at the beginning when I saw the size of the team, I thought we were going to get burned a lot but it just hasn't happened.  I credit him and his staff, especially his secondary coach, because that defense has always come to play.  They might not look it sometimes the way they have some lapses but overall they don't break.  They bend but they've never broken anad that's the key to a great defense."

"What are you starting to see now with this program, maybe some similarities back to when you played in the early 70's?"

"The main thing is the fact that they never give up.  We never gave up no matter what happened.  If one guy doesn't come through, somebody else is gonna come through and this is what's happened on this team.  If Palmer's having a bad day throwing, the running backs are picking up the game. If one receiver is struggling it seems like another receiver or maybe the tight end comes up big.  If there are hurt players on the defensive line like Cody then somebody else steps in.  That is coaching.  Nothing else but pure coaching.  When you can coach the 2nd and 3rd players at a position to step in and play at any time, that's a big thing for coaches to be able to do that and he's done a great job."

"What memories do you hold dear from playing at USC?"

"To play for John McKay, Marv Goux, Dave Levy and those guys.  They were great coaches in their day.  The camaraderie that we had as a team, even guys like Lynn Swann, Anthony Davis, Sam Cunningham will tell you that even in their pro days they never had the kind of camaraderie that we did at USC.  Just the relationships that we had and even when we see each other after all these years it's like we never stopped seeing each other.  We talk about certain games, certain instances we remember and that's saying a lot.  How many people can really say they played on a national championship football team?  The list is very small.  To hear that a lot of people voted that 72 team as the greatest team in college football history, that's a big deal.  I'm very proud of that.  I've never taken this national championship ring off, though I've gained a little weight and my fingers are swollen but even if I could take it off I wouldn't because that's how proud I am of it."

"Describe how you were as a player."

"I was a very aggressive player.  In those days we had pulling guards and I was a pulling guard. I was a very quick guard, I was 255 pounds and 6-2 and ran the 40 in 4.9, in those days I was a very fast big man.  When I say big man in those days I was a good sized lineman but nowadays I'd be lucky to play fullback.  We had a very quick line, very smart and very strong.  I was just able to get out and read blocks real well and cut down linebackers and defensive backs.  When you've got running backs like Anthony Davis, Clarence Davis, Sam Cunningham and Rod McNeil running behind you they can make you look good especially when you're a pulling guard out there in no man's land.  I thrived on big audiences because I had a little bit of ego in me and I wanted to be the one out there in no man's land making the key block to spring Anthony Davis for the touchdown.  That's what got us off, that's what got us excited.  I was just talking to someone about the six touchdowns against Notre Dame, those are great moments that no one can ever take away from you and you cherish forever."

"Talk about what these rivalry games mean to you."

"They're big.  In the movie industry there's a lot of USC people and a lot of UCLA people and I have to look at them all year long.  It makes it a lot better when we've beaten them the last three years and I can hold my head up high.  It's been 30 years since I've played, I'm a 52-year old man and I can still get excited about a rivalry.  That says a lot about the community.  I grew up with a lot of players who went to UCLA, I went to USC.  Unfortunately we won, tied and lost in my three years of playing but the one we won was the big one in 72 and that's the one that counts.  I did hate those eight years in a row when they beat us, that was really rough.  I had a son who was eight years old and never knew SC could beat UCLA.  That was tough."

"What projects do you have coming up for work?" (Graf is a movie industry veteran with experience as a 2nd unit director, action coordinator and actor in films such as Jerry Maguire, The Waterboy and Boogie Nights)

"I just finished "Timeline" a movie from a Michael Chrichton book that we shot in Canada.  I did some work on an HBO series called "Deadwood" about Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickock so that was a lot of fun.  Hopefully I'll be doing the Starsky and Hutch remake movie coming up this spring.  I actually took time off this fall to watch all the Trojan games, I didn't miss a game because I wanted to watch my son in his last year at SC."

"Talk about the other members of your family."

"My wife Betty and I have a daughter Nicole who is a freshman at USC.  She's a smart girl, she knows more about football than the average student at SC.  She is dating Ryan Nielsen, Ryan is back in school and is looking to get into coaching.  We have a younger son Kevin who is 11 but is the size of a 16 year old.  He's 5-10, 200 pounds and wears a size 13 1/2 shoe.  He's very athletic and if anyone is wearing blue and gold, or any colors that aren't cardinal and gold, he will go up and drill them.  I mean he'll hit them, I have to watch him, it's very scary already."

 

 

 

 

 

 


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