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If It's Friday, It's Time For A USC Notes Column

If It's Friday, It's Time For A USC Notes Column

USC's 1959 coaching staff including John McKay and former Raiders owner Al Davis.

Maybe when you consider the egos involved, it is not surprising the pair did not get along even though they are standing next to each other in the picture at the bottom of this column.

"He wasn't a big fan of Al Davis," legendary USC assistant coach Dave Levy said of McKay.

When McKay was hired as head coach after the 1959 season, Davis did not return. When Davis worked for then-USC coach Don Clark, he had a lot of freedom and controlled recruiting. That would not have continued even if McKay retained him.

Former San Diego Chargers coach Don Coryell last only one season (1960) with McKay at USC for a different reason. He used to get frustrated with McKay's constant changing of the game plan during the week.

  • If you buy a $10 ticket to the Fall Showcase scrimmage on the athletic dept. website, USC will slap a $3 "order charge" on it.

  • Former Mater Dei cornerback Elias Ricks, who is committed to LSU but being recruited by USC, has transferred to IMG Academy in Florida. Rivals lists Ricks as the No. 1 corner in the nation.

  • USC wide receiver Velus Jones said he considered only two schools (Tennessee, Western Kentucky) after he entered the transfer portal before he returned to the Trojans.

  • When Pete Carroll was at USC, there was some criticism that too many celebrities hung around the program like Snoop Dogg and Will Ferrell.

  • But in 1962, you had actor Randolph Scott at Saturday team breakfasts and actor Andy Devine in the locker room after games. And, of course, John Wayne was at a lot of the games.

  • Former offensive lineman Ron Mix, who is in the NFL Hall of Fame, recently wrote a letter about his best day at USC, which occurred 36 years after he graduated.

I'm including the full letter, unedited, below:

            My best day did not come while playing at USC but came 36 years after my senior year. Some background first:  during Spring Practice after my sophomore season, Marlin and Mike McKeever, joined the varsity after participating on the Freshman Team during the regular season (in those days, freshman could not play on a varsity squad). During my Freshmen and Sophomore seasons at USC, I had played end. After the regular season, I was informed, prior to that Spring Practice, that I would be moved to tackle. Another reminder: in those days, players were required to play offense, defense, and special teams. As an end, I had played at 205 pounds. After being told by my position coach, Al Davis (that’s right, the great Al Davis, who would go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as owner/coach of the Oakland Raiders), that I was being moved to tackle, I decided I needed to add weight and strength so started working out at Redpath’s Gym in Inglewood. At that time, USC did not have a weight room. It was worse than that: high school, college, and professional coaches all instructed athletes not to lift weights because, they opined, it causes muscles to tighten up and diminishes athletic skills.

            My first day at Redpath’s, there was Marlin and Mike. Marlin and Mike commented that they saw that I did not buy into that no lifting nonsense either. I told them that I was not certain that the coaches were wrong but I was certain that if I did not gain weight I would not make that team at my new position so I had nothing to lose. We then had a discussion that included our conclusion that, in a game that required strength, it made no sense not to do activities that increased strength. So, every other day, for the rest of the time were teammates, we would lift during the off-seasons, not always at the same time. We each grew to about 225 pounds by my senior year and (please do not stop reading because this is going to sound so arrogant) were far stronger and better than any opponents we faced. For instance, we could each military press 300 pounds above our heads. Marlin and Mike each made All-American as juniors and I made All-American as a senior. Our pursuit of (dare I say it) greatness did not stop there. We also stayed after practice and worked on skills (I feel readers leaving, wondering if this guy will ever stop giving advertisements for himself). Patience dear reader, I am almost done.

            I went on to play 12 years of professional football, 10 with the San Diego Chargers and two with the Oakland Raiders. I was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.  Marlin had a 14-year career, primarily with the Los Angeles Rams, and primarily as a tight end. I have always believed that had Marlin spent his entire career as a linebacker, he would have ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame also. Mike missed his senior year because of injuries in an automobile accident and later died in another automobile accident after he graduated.

            Okay, I told you readers that my best day at USC came 36 years after my senior year. Hoping you are still interested after living through the history lesson, this is what happened:  Marlin McKeever was inducted into the USC Football Hall of Fame and ASKED ME to be his presenter.

            It was a shock because Marlin and I had not stayed in contact after we left USC, seeing each other only occasionally if we happened to be at the same sports banquet. Marlin had great coaches in high school, college, and as a professional. He was a gregarious, very bright, man who had a successful business career and was active in his community. In other words, logic said there were scores of people in his life who were likely to be Hall of Fame presenters instead of a teammate from 36 years ago.

            I never asked Marlin why he had asked me to be his presenter. I can only hope that he perceived that I gave the sport the respect it deserved, that I showed my appreciation to USC for granting me an athletic scholarship by trying to give them full value in return, that I believed that I owed my teammates and coaches complete full effort.

            The highest form of satisfaction for a football player is to have the respect of his teammates. Marlin McKeever was a Player for the Ages, one who could be an All-American linebacker for USC right now. He loved being a USC Trojan.

            Abraham Lincoln, when asked about his ambition, said “I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.” For athletes, our ambition is to worthy of the esteem of our teammates.

 I continue to be touched that Marlin thought so highly of me that he allowed me to share with him that very special evening.

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