Tailback U? USC should probably call itself NFL U. It might actually be more accurate.
The NFL’s annual scouting combine began Tuesday in Indianapolis, where the country’s best talent will meet in hopes of raising its draft stock. Seven Trojans will participate in the combine, among them offensive tackle Matt Kalil, defensive end Nick Perry and tight end Rhett Ellison. Other than Kalil and Perry, no other Trojan is expected to be drafted in the first round.
It might seem like a down year for the Trojans in the draft, but let us not forget that two Trojans who were expected to be first-round picks — junior quarterback Matt Barkley and junior safety T.J. McDonald — decided to stay in school.
And while names such as Stanford’s Andrew Luck, Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Alabama’s Trent Richardson are highly touted in the draft, some people are forgetting a key point: throughout the years, the Trojans have dominated the NFL draft.
The numbers don’t lie.
Since center Tony Tonelli became the first USC player to be drafted in 1939, 473 players from USC have been drafted by NFL teams, according to NFL.com. USC sent 75 players as first-round draft picks, and five of them were the first overall selection. Four Trojans went second overall in their respective drafts.
To put this into perspective, let us take the alma mater of one of the presumed top pick in the 2012 draft, Robert Griffin III. His school, Baylor, has had 214 players drafted in its history. That school across town that wears powder blue? They’ve done pretty well for themselves in turning out NFL talent, with 290 players from Westwood being drafted. That’s 183 less than the Trojans have produced.
Alabama, the team that won the 2011 national championship, has had 297 players drafted in its history. The only school that can really compare to USC in terms of draft numbers is the University of Miami, which has had 303 players drafted.
But perhaps you aren’t convinced. Maybe USC gets a lot of people drafted, but how good are they really? Well, USC has 11 players in the NFL Hall of Fame, more than any school in the country. In fact, the Trojans have as many as Oregon and Miami combined. Auburn, the 2010 champions? One. Louisiana State University? Three. The kings of the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma, have a combined seven between them.
Currently, 55 players that attended USC are on NFL rosters in some capacity. Three Trojans made the Pro Bowl this season, including safety Troy Polamalu, who is likely headed to the Hall of Fame when his career ends.
While this year’s class of Trojans entering the draft might seem top-heavy, one cannot overlook the players that have had great careers in the NFL that weren’t first round selections. Safety Willie Wood, who is in the Hall of Fame, went undrafted in 1960. He did pretty well for himself.
In 2010, the Trojans did not have a player selected in the first round — the first time in quite a few years a Trojan did not sneak into the first 32 picks. Safety Taylor Mays was the highest drafted Trojan that year, going 49th to the San Francisco 49ers. Analysts were shocked to hear that not a single USC player went in the first round. It sounded as if even analysts had gotten used to seeing the Cardinal and Gold being selected early. The fact that it was an “upset” says a lot about the Trojans football program.
When it comes down to it, USC is the most successful program in terms of converting college athletes into NFL players. To deny USC that honor would be an injustice. Sure, not every player who has graced the football field at the Coliseum has turned into a star. But more than any other school in the country, USC has given its players the chance to be NFL stars. Sometimes, that’s all a Trojan really needs.
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