The long and painful drought for college football fans ends this weekend.
For many local residents it marks the return of their beloved alma mater, the University of Southern California, from the wasteland of limited scholarships and no bowl appearances to the top spot in many national polls. When my client Coach June Jones led the University of Hawaii Warriors to a record as the nation's only undefeated Division I program, they still would have been underdogs in a matchup with the Trojans. This contest appears to be a one-sided mismatch.
This will be the first time that Trojan fans have been to a game since the horrifying death of former USC star linebacker Junior Seau. A marketing agency led by Trojan alumni, Creative Productions will honor the late Seau at the game on Saturday by distributing 80,000 commemorative wristbands.
"Seau's legacy is being underscored by the theme Trojan Pride 55 – remembering the proud tradition No. 55 represents for elite linebackers," Creative Productions President Deborah Golian Castro said.
The wristbands direct fans to an online tribute wall, trojanpride55.com, to share memories and thoughts surrounding Junior's accomplishments.
Junior and I had a running joke in his mid-career when I represented him. I told him that my parents had five degrees between them from UCLA and that I had attended that school for a year before transferring for the remainder of undergrad and law school at UC Berkeley.
I told him that Coach John Robinson had intervened with the border guards at the 73 freeway who stopped cars to check for that obligatory license "USC Alum" to allow my family to enter "SC Heaven" on a temporary visa – which has now lasted 25 years.
Old USC alums don't die, they just move to Newport Beach.
I told Junior of the USC flags that graced so many homes on Saturday, and how parents would come to Saturday morning soccer games dressed in USC colors to attend the later afternoon game. And of course his riposte was legendary: "That's why you are a Bruin [or substitute any other university nickname] for four years, but we're Trojans for life!"
Having represented so many quality professional players from USC, and with my son Matt graduating from USC Film School in May my feelings on the rivalry are somewhat ecumenical.
Junior loved USC and its proud football tradition. He may have been the most dynamic and impactful college football linebacker I ever saw play. His Rose Bowl game in 1990 was a spectacular Tasmanian Devil display of sideline-to-sideline defensive dominance. Even though the facts of his tragic death are not totally clear, it has sent a shock wave through football spurring much more focus on the potential role concussion plays in chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Since Junior, the No. 55 jersey has been bestowed upon Willie McGinest, Israel Ifeanyi, Chris Claiborne, Markus Steele, Keith Rivers and Lamar Dawson. And so the Junior Seau legacy lives on.
This promises to be one of the most successful seasons in USC Football. With the nation's best quarterback in Matt Barkley leading the way, it could be a national championship run.
Take a moment Saturday to remember the greatness of a life lost way too soon.