The NFL’s opening weekend had many storylines, including the season and professional debuts of many former Trojan football players.
Most notable was Mark Sanchez, who was taken fifth overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, made an impressive first start as the Jets’ quarterback Sunday, leading his team to victory over the Texans. Sanchez completed 18 of 31 pass attempts for 272 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
Lining up against Sanchez was fellow USC 2009 draft class member linebacker Brian Cushing, who was a key part of the Texans’ defense, recording eight tackles.
Kaluka Maiava, Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews also had professional debuts on Sunday. Maualuga recorded eight tackles, four of them solo, in the Bengals’ opener. Maiava and Matthews both recorded one tackle each in starts for the Browns and Packers, respectively.
Longer tenured former Trojans also had key contributions in season openers. Troy Polamalu, a member of the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers, had six tackles and an interception against the Tennessee Titans, but he was sidelined with a knee injury that could keep him out for six weeks.
Former Heisman Trophy-winner Carson Palmer had a tough first game for the Bengals; he threw two picks in a loss. LenDale White (Titans) and Reggie Bush (Saints) also had little impact, each rushing for less than 30 yards in their respective games.