The time of the year that many NFL dreams are made or broken has come. Final roster cuts. The list includes many former Trojan players. In the spirit of USC’s celebration of 125 years of USC Athletics, we shall commemorate their accomplishments at USC, rather than letting them become forgotten in time.
Chilo Rachal – Guard (2004-2007)
As the 2008 NFL Combine rolled around, Chilo Rachal was the only junior among the 12 USC players to declare for the draft. It turns out his decided to enter the NFL to pay for his mother’s medical expenses. He wished that he could have stayed to finish his degree, become an All-American, and play another year under Pete Carroll. In his two years as starter, the right guard protected John David Booty on the way to two Rose Bowl victories.
Jawanza Starling – Safety (2009-2012)
Jawanza Starling was an important part of USC’s secondary as a three-year starter. He contributed significantly through the sanction years, amassing four interceptions and 128 tackles (80 solo) over his solid college career. He even had a brief, nine game stint with USC’s baseball team in 2010.
One moment many Trojan fans remember is the fumble recovery for a touchdown in South Bend during the 2011 season. With USC being up 17-10 in the third quarter, despite being nine-point underdogs, Notre Dame was threatening to score at the USC 1-yard line when their quarterback fumbled, which Jawanza returned 80 yards for a touchdown. Notre Dame was never able to recover from the deficit, losing 31-17.
He has since been signed to the the New York Giants’ practice squad
DaJohn Harris – Defensive Tackle (2007-2011)
Number 98 for the Trojans did it all defensively: tackles for loss, sacks, pass breakups, and interceptions. As a two- year starter, Harris contributed many big plays.
Christian Tupou – Defensive Tackle (2007-2011)
Nose tackle Christian Tupou started two years until an unfortunate spring game knee injury in 2010. He fought his way back from the season-ending injury to start again in 2011.
Matt Leinart – Quarterback (2001-2005)
Matt Leinart almost needs no introduction. Thee year starter. Heisman Trophy winner. Back-to-back national championships. His college accomplishments are almost too long to list. Starting from his debut on the road at Auburn to his final game at the Rose Bowl BCS National Championship, Leinart won games (37 out of 39, to be exact) and set records. He played alongside Heisman-winning running back, Reggie Bush.
During USC’s 2005 regular season game against Notre Dame, Matt Leinart played a vital role in the waning minutes of the game. Down 28-31 with 1:58 remaining on the clock, Leinart had a lot of pressure to make up for the two first half interceptions he had thrown. In a drama-filled drive, in a drama-filled game, Leinart and USC started at their own 24-yard line. Their last two timeouts were burned due to a sack and pass short of the first down. Being faced with fourth-and-nine, Leinart called an audible resulting in a 61-yard pass to Dwayne Jarrett. After a few more plays, Leinart fumbled the ball at the Notre Dame one-yard line. Luckily, it went out of bounds. The coaches gave him two choices: spike the ball or do a quarterback sneak. He chose the latter. The final score was 34-31. Reggie Bush famously pushed Leinart into the endzone (dubbed the “Bush Push”).
After the game Leinart said “….You can play for the tie and hope to go to overtime. Or, you’re on the 1-yard line, you know? It’s really man-on-man. It’s get in the end zone, or go home.”