In the moments before the Pac-12 championship game began on Friday, USC safety Chris Hawkins journeyed toward the end zone alone, kneeled and put his head down.
Hawkins had hardly slept the night before. At around midnight, he received word that his grandmother had died of breast cancer.
“I just wanted to talk to her for a little bit,” Hawkins said. “I was just thinking about her, thinking about all the past experiences I had with her. This was my first game where she wasn't going to be watching, except from up above.”
Hawkins proceeded to have arguably the best game of his career. He led USC with 13 tackles, more than twice the number of the next...