The University of Southern California Trojans football program has produced the most players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the most draft picks of any school. But that certainly doesn't mean each drafted player that has worn cardinal and gold has been a success.
5. Ronald Johnson (49ers), 2011: With blazing speed that made him a persistent deep threat and a dynamic returner, RoJo made an immediate impact at Southern Cal. He posted solid stats and scored two touchdowns in the Trojan's 2009 Rose Bowl win against Penn State. Although only a sixth-round pick in the draft, the 49ers had high hopes, but Johnson never made it out of the preseason and was released.
4. Ricky Bell (Buccaneers), 1977: Nicknamed "the Bulldog" for the growls he would make when running the ball, Bell was a punishing back who led college football in rushing in 1975. He came in third place and runner-up in Heisman voting. Taken first in the draft by his former Trojans coach John McKay (ahead of Tony Dorsett), his career was hampered by injury. Despite rushing for 1,263 yards in 1979, it was his only 1,000-yard year. He died at the age of 29 from a degenerative heart disease.
3. Mike Williams (Lions), 2005: With spectacular freshman and sophomore seasons at USC, earning him Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and All-American honors, Williams declared his intention to enter the 2004 NFL Draft. This move backfired when he was not allowed to participate and had to sit out a season. Selected 10th overall, he under-performed his rookie season and played in only eight games in 2006. He was then traded to Oakland.
2. Matt Leinert (Cardinals), 2006: The Heisman Trophy quarterback led the Trojans to the 2004 BCS national championship (later vacated) and was drafted 10th overall. The Cards had high hopes for the 6-foot-5-inch lefty, but many believed he lacked NFL throwing strength. After a number of lackluster performances, he ended up carrying the clipboard as backup behind Kurt Warner. After Warner's retirement, Leinert lost the starting QB role to journeyman Derek Anderson and moved on.
1. Todd Marinovich (Raiders), 1991: Robo QB came to USC with high expectations after much media hype. He picked up the starting quarterback role in 1989 as a redshirt freshman. He led the Trojans through a solid season that included a comeback win versus Washington State and a win in the 1990 Rose Bowl over Michigan. His 1990 college season was a bust and after an arrest for cocaine possession, he entered the draft and was picked 24th overall by the Raiders (ahead of Brett Favre). Marinovich had flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but he never got it going in the NFL as he struggled with substance abuse. He lasted just two seasons.
And for all my Gang Green friends who constantly moan about the New York Jets' draft choices, I have to include an honorable mention:
Dave Cadigan (Jets), 1988: As a first-team All-American in 1987 as an offense lineman, the Jets had good reason for making this Trojan the eighth pick in the draft, despite his positive test for steroids at scouting combines. He put in six fairly lackluster seasons but, ironically, bought out his option in hopes of a larger payoff. It didn't happen, and he played only one additional season in the NFL.
The author has been a Trojan football fan since birth and graduated from USC in 1986.
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