May 19, 2009

Smarts show up on the field

There are certain qualities that Pete Carroll wants in a football player. There's probably not a list of specific traits floating around Heritage Hall, but like a guy who only dates redheads, it's safe to say Carroll has a type.

He likes his safeties big, like Kevin Ellison, Taylor Mays, Will Harris and T.J. McDonald. The running backs have to have specialized skills, be a grinder like Stafon Johnson, versatile like Joe McKnight or shifty like Curtis McNeal.

Whether its an offensive guard, a tight end, a defensive tackle or a punter, Carroll wants guys willing to always compete, and a big part of that competition doesn't happen between the white lines.

It happens between the ears.

This past weekend, USC celebrated its academics with commencement ceremonies being held all over campus, and the Trojan football team wasn't left out of the party. The Trojans' had 14 players receive degrees earned either last fall or in the spring.

Also, according to, 15 other players are on track to earn degrees by the of the 2009 fall semester.

A number of those players have earned or will earn their degrees in four years or less - no small feat for any college student, nevertheless one who is spilling his guts on the practice field four days a week.

The simple fact is you have to be smart to graduate from USC, and you have to be smart AND disciplined to play football and graduate from USC. On the field, knowing the quadratic formula won't help a player catch a football or throw a spiral, but off the field smarts definitely translate to the field.

Take Garrett Green for instance. Green earned his degree in real estate planning and business administration this past Saturday. On the field, he's been shuffled back and forth between a number of positions. If he didn't have a strong mental capacity, Green wouldn't be able to handle the flip-flopping between wide receiver and quarterback like he did this spring and will this fall.

Now, you don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to be a good football player for the Trojans. In Carroll's tenure, plenty of players have starred on the field while just getting by in the classroom.

Still, there is little question that off-field smarts are an attractive asset for any player.

Wide receiver Damian Williams is on track to graduate at the end of this fall semester, and Williams is one of the most respected players on the team. He's able to lead because of his mental prowess, which is only matched by the fact that he's a terrific football player.

While Williams and Green could very well be gone by the time the 2010 season rolls around, the Trojans have a new crop of talented youngsters headed in ready to pick up the mental slack.

Frankie Telfort, a four-star linebacker from Miami, and Devon Kennard, a five-star defensive end from Phoenix, are both fantastic students. Both are also pretty good at football, too.

There are more smart guys on the current roster, and with more on the way, graduation day seems like it will continue to also be a day of celebration for the Trojan football family.

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