Trojans across the NFL shine during week two

USC quarterback Sam Darnold scrambles away from a Penn State defensive player.
Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold has led the Carolina Panthers to an undefeated 2-0 record to start the season. Darnold was traded from the New York Jets last summer. (Trevor Sochocki | Daily Trojan file photo)

Week two of the NFL season was a great showing for former USC players, who shined on both sides of the ball. The Trojans have an illustrious tradition of developing NFL talent, ranking second all-time in drafted players (516) and first round draft picks (83). 

Twelve former Trojans are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of all-time. There are currently 30 former Trojans on NFL rosters.

Sam Darnold

Former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold continues to impress as the Panthers quarterback, a team that he was traded to during the offseason. Darnold was a world class talent at USC from 2016 to 2017 and was the hero in the 2017 Rose Bowl victory against Penn State, which remains USC’s greatest triumph over the past five years. 

A lot of skepticism surrounded Darnold during his time in New York due to the team’s inability to win — last season the Jets went 2-14 with Darnold as a starter. However, continuous losing with New York proved to be an issue outside of Darnold’s control, as the Jets have started off the season 0-2 once again after a horrendous showing against the New England Patriots. 

Meanwhile, the Panthers have started the season 2-0 with Darnold under center, defeating the New Orleans Saints 26-7 Sunday. Darnold threw for 305 yards with two touchdown passes in the victory.

Robert Woods and Michael Pittman Jr. 

In Indianapolis, former USC stars and current NFL receivers Robert Woods and Michael Pittman Jr. faced off for the first time in a professional setting.

It can be argued that Woods is USC’s greatest receiver ever, holding the Trojans’ record for most receptions of all time (252) and ranking second in touchdowns scored (32), trailing only Dwayne Jarrett. Pittman Jr. was selected 34th overall by the Colts in the 2020 NFL Draft after a stellar four-year career at USC and hasn’t lost a step since he turned pro, leading the Colts with eight catches for 123 yards on Sunday. Woods hauled in five catches for 64 yards, for the Rams Sunday.

JuJu Smith-Schuster

JuJu Smith-Schuster, another member of USC’s 2017 Rose Bowl-winning team, was a game-changer for the Steelers in their matchup against the Raiders. Smith-Schuster was highly productive for the Trojans from 2014 to 2016, recording 213 receptions for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns. All of these statistics rank fifth all-time in USC history.

On Sunday, Smith-Schuster caught six passes for 41 yards, and also rushed for a touchdown.

Adoree’ Jackson and Leonard Williams

On the defensive side of the ball, Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and defensive end Leonard Williams combined for ten tackles on Thursday against the Washington Football Team. The duo spent one season together with the Trojans in 2014 and have now reunited with the New York Giants. Both players were first round picks in their respective NFL Drafts.

Talanoa Hufanga and Amon-Ra St. Brown

49ers’ rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga recorded his first NFL tackle on Sunday against the Eagles. Another rookie, Amon-Ra St. Brown, racked up three receptions for the Detroit Lions Monday night against the Packers. Both of these young talents are already proving their worth in the NFL.

Malcom Smith

Super Bowl XLVII MVP Malcom Smith has started a new chapter of his career with the Cleveland Browns, and is proving to be a key defensive piece. The former USC outside linebacker tallied eight tackles and a big third quarter interception to help set the Browns up with great field position and seal the victory over the Houston Texans.