It was a surreal scene at Heritage Hall on Monday as Pete Carroll, the man responsible for adding many trophies to cases in the lobby, held his final press conference to say goodbye to the players that he recruited and coached at USC, as well as the entire Trojan Family.
"I want to make sure and thank the marvelous fan support that we have had," Carroll said. "The Trojan Family has really rallied for years and years and loved all the winning and hated the losing and that's what I love about you."
Heritage Hall is usually pretty quiet at this time of the year, but today, it was overflowing with various members of the print, online and television media all waiting to hear why Carroll decided to return to the NFL.
Carroll held a team meeting at 2:30 to let his players know that he was indeed accepting the offer to become the next head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, and take on another challenge, for the man whose mantra is ‘Always Compete.'
"It hurts me, it hurts these guys and I know our fans wish it could just keep on going," he said. "It can't keep on going because I just can't pass this opportunity that just came up. If you know anything about me, I can't pass up a competitive challenge."
The players were understandably disappointed to see their coach and other members of the staff leaving the program, but most said they understood Carroll's decision.
"It was a very big opportunity for him, which we all saw, and he couldn't turn it down," USC wide receiver Brice Butler said. "He doesn't have to apologize. He made the decision that he thought was best for him. There is no need to say sorry to anybody."
Chris Galippo added: "It was really weird. It was a lot like when you break up with your first girlfriend. All I have ever known is him and his theories. It's tough, but like I said, it's a good opportunity for us all to really grow up."
With the news made official on Monday, the players seemed anxious to get a new staff in place, move forward and start working towards the future.
"The bulk of the guys are ready to move forward," Butler said. "Everybody is ready to go because nobody wants to be in the Emerald Bowl again."
Could Gable Go?
Could the possible departure of Todd McNair mean C.J. Gable will be leaving for the NFL?
That appears to be the case, as Gable explained yesterday that he plans to see McNair's fate at USC, before making his final decision to stay in school or forego his senior season for the NFL.
When asked if he planned to stay in school Gable responded, "Well, right now, yeah. If some coaches leave that I don't want to go then I might leave. If everybody leaves then I just might leave, but I don't know yet."
At this point, McNair's status is still up in the air. The Trojans' running backs coach said he didn't plan to join Pete Carroll in Seattle, but went on to say that his future at USC is uncertain as well.
McDonald Recovering from Surgery
USC freshman defensive back T.J. McDonald was on crutches Monday after undergoing surgery on his injured left ankle the previous Thursday.
The 6-2, 205-pound safety suffered an injured ankle during the first padded practice of fall camp but was able to contribute on special teams and at safety, despite being limited.
"I actually got hurt the first day in pads way back in fall camp. I probably came back earlier than I should have and then I hurt it again," McDonald said. "It was nagging the whole year and it was hard for me to plant and go side to side. I can get to full speed, but the hard part was slowing down or stopping, and going side to side.
"I felt really limited. Just making cuts, stopping and breaking down was the hard part."
The off-season surgery was to repair a torn ligament in McDonald's left ankle. He will now undergo rehab and plans to be back to full strength in six weeks.
"I have been waiting for this time to come." He said. "I have been talking about it with my dad and everything. It is my turn and I'm going to step up."
The Wright Choice
USC cornerback Shareece Wright was one of the only players on the team to stick around and watch Pete Carroll's final press conference at USC.
The ultra-talented cornerback said that with the departure of Carroll, he was also considering making a jump to the NFL, and wanted to have one more sit down with his coach before making a decision.
Fortunately for USC fans, Wright got his chance to talk with Carroll after the press conference, and Carroll convinced the junior cornerback that his best option was to stay in school, where he could be a potential first-round draft pick with a solid senior campaign.
Pete Carroll addresses the media at Heritage Hall on Monday.
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