USC matchup brings taste of home for SoCal Ducks

The first decade of the 21st century was perhaps the greatest era of USC football ever. The program won seven Pac-10 titles, appeared in consecutive BCS Championship games, was recognized as the AP National Champion in 2003 and 2004 and had three Heisman Trophy winners.

That was, of course, all before the NCAA enforced sanctions on the program in 2010. USC has struggled to return to its original dominance since.

Nevertheless, USC controlled the college football spotlight. And many current Oregon football players are Southern California natives who followed the Trojans.

For 18 of the current Ducks, home is within a two-hour drive of USC, including Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.

“I used to go to all the home games, and it was an honor seeing those guys play and seeing how they got it done,” Adams said Tuesday in the lead-up to Oregon’s matchup with the Trojans.

One player in particular caught Adams’ eyes when he went to those games: Reggie Bush.

“I wanted to be Bush,” he said. “I’m a quarterback, but I liked all his moves. It kinda goes though my head [now], it’s like, ‘Bush, Bush, do something.’ He’s one of my favorite players to this day, so I like watching.”

Adams, who grew up in Pasadena, California, sports an ‘SC’ tattoo on his right arm,just below his elbow. Though the tattoo appears to be the same typeface as the USC logo, he said the tattoo represents Southern California, not the Trojans.

Senior linebacker Rodney Hardrick, like Adams, also had childhood days dominated by the Trojans.

“That was the time of my life when I was watching football 24/7. I was really starting to get into it and it really made me want to play the game,” Hardrick said.

Hardrick used to attend the Trojans practice “all the time” in high school, to the point where he became familiar with the entire program.

“I wanted to go there all my life,” he said.

That is, until Hardrick found the University of Oregon to be a better fit overall. Yet, still today, Hardrick remembers growing his hair out because of former USC All-American safety Troy Polamalu.

“I think I had one of his jerseys laying around somewhere,” Hardrick said.

Hardrick has only played the Trojans once in his Oregon career — at the 2012 game in Los Angeles. In his nine appearances that season, it was the only game the Colton, California native recorded a tackle for loss.

For Adams, this Saturday marks his one and only shot to play his “home school,” an opportunity that’s been on his mind for quite a while.

“I’m just excited to play USC,” he said. “I’ve always dreamed of this.”

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Andrew Bantly

Andrew Bantly