Rex Moore says that he is so consumed by football that he spends most of his time thinking about it.
So, perhaps it falls into the category of cruel and inhuman punishment that USC's sophomore inside linebacker hasn't been able to play this season.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done, not playing football," Moore said.
Moore is burdened with a severely pulled left hamstring that he incurred in the opening days of practice last August at UC Irvine.
He missed spring practice while recovering from shoulder surgery and he says he hasn't been in full uniform since the Rose Bowl game against Ohio State.
There is a possibility, however, that the 6-1, 225-pound Moore will play Saturday against Stanford at the Coliseum.
"I'll just have to go out and see how it feels," he said. "It will be a tough decision if I have to hold back. But I have to be more professional about my decision and less emotional. I tried to come back too soon just before the Baylor game and I pulled it again. I wasn't being smart about it. I was trying to forget that the injury was there."
Moore has been told by his coaches and the USC medical staff that the decision to play is up to him, that he must listen to his own body.
As a backup linebacker who played regularly last season, his intense style of play was reminiscent of another former Trojan Riki Ellison of the San Francisco 49ers.
"Rex is tough and mean and enjoys the physical part of the game," Coach Ted Tollner said. "He instantly sets a tone of toughness for our defense when he steps onto the field. He plays every down as hard as he can play it."
Moore, a prep All-American at El Modena High in Orange, isn't sure how much playing time he'll get when he's physically able to perform.
"I think we have two of the best inside linebackers in the Pac-10 in Sam Anno and Keith Davis," he said. "I don't think (USC) is missing me. You can't expect to step right in because the talent is so good."
It's doubtful, though, that Moore can be kept out of the lineup, even if he has to play only part time.
"I don't have great speed, so I know what I have to do to achieve my goals," he said. "But I have the ability to work hard. I play intensely and I think that's a form of ability. I think intensity comes as how important something is to you.
"You read about women lifting up cars because a baby is underneath. Now if athletes could be in that frame of mind when they play, well . . . "
Moore usually plays a game of controlled violence but sometimes he loses control.
In last year's Notre Dame game, played on a rain-drenched field at the Coliseum, a national television audience watched as Moore picked up a clump of mud and hurled it into the face of Irish running back Allen Pinkett.
"When I'm out there, I just want to inflict as much trouble as I can," Moore said. "I won't say pain because that sounds sick. I wanted to do everything to make this guy (Pinkett) unhappy--and I knew I could get away with it.
"I don't know if I'm proud of what I did, but I'm not ashamed of it, either."
Moore shares an off-campus apartment with his brother, Rob, a former Stanford fullback, who is now a graduate student in USC's business school.
"Rob is brilliant," Rex said. "He doesn't seem to study that much but when he does, he's very intense. He graduated from Stanford with a 3.7 grade-point average. He can read a thick paperback novel in just one night."
Moore shrugs off his own academic involvement, saying that he just gets by. But those who know him say he can be as good a student as he wants to be.
"I used to go to Stanford games when Rob was playing there and I hated USC," Moore said. "Now, I hate Stanford because I'm on this side and I know what they're saying about us."
Moore was asked why he switched his allegiance from Stanford to USC.
"The best thing for me was to come to USC," he said. "I wanted to play football. I don't necessarily want to be a businessman. I want to play football as long as I can.
"The image of USC is of a dominant powerhouse. The walk from the dressing room to the stadium is a real big thing at Stanford. I used to take that walk with my brother.
"But 50% of the time that walk back to the dressing room is terrible because the team lost. If we lose now, my week is all screwed up. It's so emotional for me.
"So I couldn't see losing that much. I thought by the time I got out of USC as compared to the time I got out of Stanford, I'd be a better football player. The image of a team can do a lot for you."
Moore pictures himself playing for the Raiders some day. But he said he would gladly play for the Rams, Green Bay, Minnesota, any pro team.
Right now, though, he just wants to play for USC after months of frustrating inactivity.
Trojan Notes Stanford fullback Brad Muster, the nation's leading college receiver, is questionable for Saturday's game. He has a bruised breastbone that he aggravated in a 34-9 loss to UCLA last Saturday. He has caught 45 passes and is averaging 9.6 yards a catch. . . . Ted Tollner said tailback Ryan Knight is still bothered by a strained ligament in his left ankle. Another tailback, Steve Webster, also has an ankle injury. Zeph Lee, who started the season as a tailback, is now backing up Joe Cormier, the designated tight end in motion. So Fred Crutcher and Aaron Emanuel are getting the most work at tailback in practice. "We're just one injury away from having one tailback," Tollner said. . . . Tight end Paul Green and outside linebacker Greg Coauette are questionable for Saturday's game with ankle injuries.
It's unusual for USC to have two byes in one season, as the Trojans have had this year. One bye was caused by moving last Saturday's scheduled game with Oregon at the Coliseum to Nov. 30 in Tokyo for the Mirage Bowl. Tollner said there are both positive and negative aspects to an idle weekend. Positive: Injured players get additional time to heal. Negative: The tempo of the season is broken. . . . Stanford (1-4) has lost four straight games and hasn't beaten USC (2-2) since 1975. The Cardinal is ranked No. 3 nationally in passing offense, averaging 332.4 yards a game. But Stanford has yielded an average of 33 points and 436.4 total yards a game. . . . Stanford Coach Jack Elway on USC: "On a given day, if we work hard, we can beat them. I am confident we can run on them." Interesting observation, considering that Stanford is averaging only 2.8 yards on rushing plays and that USC is ranked No. 10 nationally in rushing defense, having allowed only 90.3 yards a game. USC, yielding 269.3 yards a game, is ranked sixth nationally in total defense.