NFL rookies are usually allotted time to develop into the playmakers that they are hopeful to become but some have the unique ability to impact the game immediately. On Thursday, Sporting News announced its 2009 NFL All-Rookie Team, recognizing the players who have done just that.
The Trojans are well represented with quarterback Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, linebacker Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans and linebacker Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers making the list.
Although Sanchez disappointed fans by declaring early for the NFL draft after leading the Trojans to a victory in the Rose Bowl, he has recently proven that he can play in the NFL. Despite a mediocre 9-7 season with 20 interceptions, only 10 touchdowns, and a quarterback rating of 63.0, Sanchez and the Jets will play in the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts after overcoming their underdog status to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers.
Few are surprised that Cushing has been so successful. He finished his college career with 178 tackles, 8.5 quarterback sacks and was named to the All-American first team by Sports Illustrated. As a rookie, Cushing had 133 tackles and 4 sacks. He was named to the Pro Bowl and the 2009 Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Even though Matthews came to USC as a walk-on in 2004 and did not start until his senior season with the Trojans, he had 51 tackles and 10 sacks in his first season with the Packers. Matthews’ 10 sacks led the team, and are the most by a Packers’ rookie in franchise history. Matthews will also be joining Cushing in the Pro Bowl as he replaced Lance Briggs from the Chicago Bears due to injury.